News: One-million-pound pass complete
Story by Capt. Jason Smith
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - Somewhere over Africa during a mission Feb. 16, 2013, an aircrew from the 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron reached a milestone.
More than 1 million pounds of fuel have now been passed from KC-135 Stratotankers, operating from a deployed location in southwest Europe, to French fighter aircraft conducting operations over Mali.
A contingent of Airmen and KC-135s departed the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, Jan. 26 and stood up as the 351st EARS. Aerial refueling began on Jan. 27, 2013, and 351st EARS Airmen have been striving to meet the French fighters’ needs since.
“The 96 percent mission effectiveness rate is really the big deal,” said Lt. Col. Heather Baldwin, 351st EARS commander. “Being at 96 percent and reaching the 1-million-pound mark in under a month has taken a lot of hard work and expertise. Our aircrews, maintainers and support have been incredible.
“This is a massive refueling effort from a small group of dedicated Airmen,” continued Baldwin, a Savage, Minn., native. “I couldn’t be more proud of this squadron.”
The million-pound mark doesn’t result in a champagne shower or large trophy presentation, but it is relevant based on where the KC-135s are meeting the receivers and what types of receivers are taking the gas.
"Fighters typically take sips of gas rather than the huge gulp a transport aircraft might take," said Col. Christopher Kulas, 100th ARW commander. "One million pounds of gas isn't a typical celebratory milestone, but the efforts our maintenance, ops and base operating support teams have taken to get there are telling.
"The 351st EARS support to the French has been impressive to watch," continued Kulas. "I am extremely proud of the team effort – these outstanding Airmen should hold their heads high."
The 351st EARS KC-135s provide air-to-air refueling support to French aircraft conducting military operations in Mali. The air-to-air refueling expands the operational capability of French aircraft by allowing them to remain airborne for extended periods of time.