News: Manas KC-135s complete final mission, leave Kyrgyzstan
Story by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - After six hours of traveling, refueling A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, (who happened to be supporting troops in contact) and F-16 Fighting Falcons, the KC-135 touched down to a fanfare of saluting airmen.
Col. Mike Seiler, 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, piloted the historical flight.
“It’s a pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” said Seiler, who is deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. “When [I] think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one: fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”
Over the last 12.5 years at the Transit Center at Manas, KC-135s flew 33,500 sorties, which led to 135,000 aircraft refueled with more than 265 million gallons of gas delivered, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Shortly after the mission crew landed, another KC-135 crew took off bound for Fairchild AFB, Wash. Before the end of the evening two more KC-135s started home, leaving only an iced-over C-17 on the runway.
“I wish there was an honest way to track how many times a tanker mission has directly affected troops on the ground," said Seiler, a native of Oklahoma City, Okla.
Senior Master Sgt Jeffrey Bishop, 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was the boom for the final mission.
“It all comes down to people … Airmen with a big ‘A,’” said Bishop, who is deployed from McConnell AFB, Kan. “This team; I would go to war with them anytime.”