by Senior Airman Dillon Davis
97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
8/10/2015 - ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Altus
Air Force Base is home to one of the most advanced systems used to
train future U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft boom
The Boom Operator Weapons System Trainer is a simulator used by boom
operator students here at Altus AFB to provide hands-on training before
they even leave the ground. The simulated training allows the students
to run through nearly any scenario possible and tests their abilities to
respond appropriately to a variety of challenges they may encounter
during an actual refueling mission.
"The BOWST saves approximately $217,603 per student in flight hours,"
said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Vesser, 97th Training Squadron
boom operator instructor. "This is because we were able to reduce our
flying requirement by three sorties and move that training into the
Aside from the obvious cost-saving reasons for simulator training, the
BOWST ensures that boom operator students are better prepared to handle
in-flight refueling. The students are able to hone their skills in a
risk-free environment; therefore, they are able to make "rookie"
mistakes without endangering lives or Air Force assets.
"As a boom operator, you are not only responsible for accomplishing the
mission, but you are predominantly responsible for the lives onboard
your aircraft and the receiving aircraft," said U.S. Air Force Senior
Airman Mary Claire Bolo, 203rd Air Refueling Squadron boom operator
student, Hawaii Air National Guard. "Like anything else, things can go
wrong and the BOWST gives us the opportunity to recognize, be aware and
calmly correct the conditions that are deemed unsafe."
Each boom operator student completes a total of 16 BOWST training
simulations before they take to the skies. The required simulations test
the Airmen on a variety of different possible scenarios they may
encounter while refueling other aircraft.
"This is where we apply what we've learned in the classroom setting on a
KC-135 boom operator simulator," said Bolo. "We go through multiple
abnormal and normal operating procedures until our instructors feel we
are proficient and ready for the real deal. Being in the BOWST broadens
our situational awareness in all aspects of flight for when we, the boom
operators, are in control of the aircraft."
The classroom instruction gives students the knowledge necessary to
safely perform the air refueling mission, however, it is not until they
reach the BOWST portion of their training that they are able to put that
knowledge into action and reaction.
"The most important thing I'll be taking away from the BOWST is the
malfunction procedures," said Bolo. "We work closely with our
instructors, who are prior boom operators, and they share with us their
knowledge and expertise on what to expect once we become operational."
The boom operators in training get to learn their craft from highly
qualified and experienced instructors who were previously boom
"The BOWST also gives the instructor an opportunity to explain in detail
and even pause the scenario to discuss the procedures throughout the
training event," said Brian Buss, boom operator instructor.
Simulators, in conjunction with expert instructors, have not only
improved training efficiency, but also the quality of training received
here at the 97th Training Squadron.
"The BOWST portion of training, I feel, is absolutely necessary to
accomplish as a boom operator student," said Bolo. "If I didn't first
fly the BOWST, I wouldn't feel comfortable at all stepping on an