By Air Force Senior Airman Jenna Caldwell, 22nd Air Refueling Wing
WICHITA, Kan., Nov. 20, 2017 — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Clayton Allen, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Plans and Programs noncommissioned officer in charge, isn’t a communications airman by trade. He’s a water and fuels systems maintenance airman pulled from the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron.
Allen is self-taught in computer programming and satellite and ground command-and-control radio systems.
He was sent on a short-notice temporary duty assignment to Moron Air Base in Spain as a missions support liaison from Sept. 28-Oct. 12.
KC-135 refueling aircraft and crews from McConnell Air Force Base here are currently deployed to Spain in support of Operation Juniper Micron, providing air refueling and airlift support to French aircraft conducting operations in Mali and North Africa.
This deployment marks the first time that KC-135s from the 22nd ARW have supported the OJM mission, so the McConnell-led task force had to set up an entire operation from the ground level.
Allen developed and built radio communication equipment necessary for the crisis action team to monitor and communicate mission-essential information with the KC-135 aircrew while on the ground and during arrival and departure.
“Since I have knowledge about radios, I was able to improve the range in which we could talk to the pilots,” Allen said. “[Previously] the max measure distance was 230-240 miles. I was able to double the range.”
Radio communication is essential for the detachment commander to be able to speak with the allies being refueled, keeping them updated on maintenance issues with our aircraft and how it may affect our ability to support their mission, Allen said.
Allen had two days to set up radio communications and ensure the team was ready for their first mission.
Allen ‘Makes Things Happen Quickly’
“There was necessary equipment and instructions that were not mentioned in the deployment orders that they needed when they landed, which is why they needed a guy like Allen,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, 22nd ARW XP superintendent. “He shows up and makes things happen quickly. His abilities, his passion and all his hobbies all came into fruition into one single job.”
In preparation for this deployment, Allen helped update over 400 mission-essential equipment items for the detachment commander, ensuring mission readiness.
McConnell KC-135s supplemented the workload of KC-135s assigned to the 100th ARW, RAF Mildenhall, U.K., which typically conducts this mission. RAF Mildenhall is temporarily unable to support the mission due to flightline construction at Istres-Le Tubé AB, France, and Naval Station Rota, Spain, according to headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Allen played a very large part in the hand-over crew from Rota, Spain, where this mission set previously operated out of. He orchestrated all the transport of vehicles and equipment, helped maintenance offload equipment and passengers and served as acting detachment first sergeant, Bachleda said.
“I can guarantee you, he is the only plumber in Air Force history who has ever deployed to set up an air refueling squadron and their network communications,” Bachleda said of Allen.