News: McConnell Reserve unit looks forward to new KC-46A mission
Story by 1st Lt. Zachary Anderson
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. - Yesterday's announcement of McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., as the preferred alternative for the first active-duty led KC-46A main operating base means the citizen airmen of the Air Force Reserve's 931st Air Refueling Group here will be among the first to fly and maintain the new air refueler once it arrives at the base in fiscal year 2016.
"I am very pleased with yesterday's announcement," said Col. Mark S. Larson, commander of the 931st Air Refueling Group. "It's exciting to know our Reservists will be some of the first airmen to conduct missions in and maintain the KC-46A."
Currently, more than 600 Reservist are assigned to the 931st Air Refueling Group and work hand-in-hand with the active duty 22nd Air Refueling Wing in accomplishing the mission of the Air Force's largest tanker base.
The "classic association" at McConnell means the host unit 22nd Air Refueling Wing owns the aircraft, while the 931st Air Refueling Group shares in mission, operations, maintenance and training responsibilities.
This "total force integration" increases force-wide efficiencies and effectiveness by leveraging the resources and strengths of both the active duty and Reserve components.
Assuming McConnell is selected following a required analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the new aircraft at each location, the Air Force will continue its classic association at the base with the arrival of the new tankers.
Larson said the decision to utilize the total force for the KC-46A will serve to continue to keep the 931st on the forefront of meeting the mission demands of the Air Force.
"The 931st Air Refueling Group has a proud history of working together with our active-duty partners for mission success," said Col. Mark S. Larson, commander of the 931st Air Refueling Group. "The announcement of McConnell as the preferred alternative main operating base and the Air Force's decisions to create Total Force Integration associate units at all KC-46 main operating bases in the U.S. ensures that the Air Force Reserve remains engaged in all major mission areas of the Air Force."
Compared to the KC-135 Stratotankers currently based at McConnell, the KC-46A has more refueling capacity, enhanced air refueling capabilities, improved efficiency, and increased cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.
The new tanker, which is a commercial derivative based on the Boeing 767-200 airframe, also provides for world-wide navigation and communication, airlift capability on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multi-point air refueling capability.
Larson said the Reserve airmen at McConnell are more than up to making the transition to the new airframe. In fact, several members of the Reserve unit are already currently qualified and flying the 767 airframe in their civilian occupations as commercial airline pilots.
"One of the great benefits of the Air Force Reserve is the fact that our airmen bring their civilian workplace skills and knowledge with them when they put on the uniform," said Larson. "The fact that so many of our pilots already have experience in operating this airframe is a perfect example the experience Reserve members bring to the table."
Larson said he is now looking forward to the changes and challenges that lie ahead as the 931st prepares to perform in this new role.
"Our citizen airmen have flown and maintained the KC-135 at McConnell for 18 years with tremendous success," said Larson. "As we look forward to the future, I know we will not only succeed, but excel in this new and exciting mission."