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.