Military News

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Total force trifecta pulls off tanker-fighter mission

by Staff Sgt. Katie Spencer
459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2013 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.  -- Members of the 459th Air Refueling Wing here got first-hand experience working within the total force trifecta of active duty, Guard and Reserve during an overseas mission June 7-12.

Two pilots, three maintainers and a boom operator from the Air Force Reserve's 459th ARW traveled to Estonia to provide air-to-air refueling to A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters from Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing, Baltimore. The fighters were participating in Saber Strike, an international and collation training exercise and needed refueling support on the trip back to the U.S.

Joining the 459th ARW was an active duty tanker team from the 22nd ARW, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., The units created the air refueling bridge to keep the fighters fueled throughout their journey from Europe.

Preparation and coordination were key to mission success.

"When you step in a briefing room, it doesn't matter if you are active, Guard or Reserve," said Lt. Col. Richard Coalson, 350th Air Refueling Squadron commander from McConnell AFB. "We all have a mission to do and it comes together seamlessly. We brief, we take-off and we do our jobs."

The mission called for two KC-135 Stratotankers to form the refueling bridge to keep four A-10s in the air. The McConnell and Andrews tankers were in constant communication with the Baltimore fighter jets who pull up to the refueling booms to get their fuel. A few fuel dispenses and eight hours later, the trifecta lands at Lajes Field, Azores, for crew rest. The teams reconvened the following day to do it all over again.

"These long trips require everyone to really work together and become an integrated force," said Coalson. "I think working in a total force environment is the best way to complete missions and it is important we do it and do it well."

"I enjoy working side by side with the other components," said Maj. Brian Fisher, a pilot for the 756 ARS. "Although we all adhere to the same standards and support the same overall mission, each component has a slightly different perspective, approach, and experience level when working to meet the challenges. These differences tend to produce more robust solutions to a given mission scenario."

While working in a total force atmosphere provides different perspectives and approaches, this mission supplied crew members with necessary skills in order to be current on their training.

Things like oceanic procedures, communication/data link procedures, formation events, and off-station transition procedures are all part of training needed for deployment, said Fisher. They also give the aircrew opportunity to operate the aircraft in areas of the world which are different from the local training environments. Overall they are great experience builders and contribute to increasing the combat support capability for the aircrews and maintainers, he said.

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