News: Local teachers experience aerial refueling
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England – Four British teachers experienced RAF Mildenhall’s unique mission of extending the Global Reach and Global Power of U.S. and NATO aircraft across the Atlantic, throughout Europe and into the reaches of Asia and Africa, Aug. 26.
In essence, the educators learned what it meant to ‘pass gas’ – RAFM style.
Though daily local educators often provide American children a proper British education, it’s rare that the base gets to return the notion as the 100 Air Refueling Wing’s mission is a busy one. They are responsible for conducting air refueling and combat support operations throughout all of the European and African areas of responsibility.
This mission keeps the more than 10,000 assigned airmen busy 24/7 as their AOR covers 20-million square miles and they keep Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations aircraft gassed up and ready to fight using their 15 assigned KC-135 Stratotankers.
Prior to taking flight, the teachers were examined by the flight surgeon, received mission briefings, and were shown directly the safety features and necessary precautions for the mission.
Later in the day, briefing and classroom-style instruction gave way to real-life experiences as two teachers sat in the cockpit during takeoff, one during landing, and they all took turns laying on either side of the boom operator and watched RAF Lakenheath-based F-15E Strike Eagles take on fuel.
“Thank you for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see firsthand what those planes we are accustomed to seeing in the British skies do to bolster national security,” said Linda Flack, an educator from Lakenheath Community Primary School. “It was amazing to see how effortless in appearance a crew of professionals can counter harsh weather, link up with fighter jets, maintain a course and speed with those jets, and pump petrol – all while flying in massive circles 10,000 feet in the air!”
Staff Sgt. Bob Jenkins, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, was one such professional and he offloaded JP-8 fuel to four Strike Eagle aircraft during the mission. Also aboard were three pilots, including Maj. Kale Mosley, who due to medical reasons, had not flown in a short while and was aboard to get refresher training. Still, he took the time to spend much of the flight with the teachers, enhancing their understanding of air refueling operations and bolstering community relations.
Mosley has a 3-month-old child at home and is saddened his child would not benefit from the quality of the British instructors, he said.
“I’m afraid we’ll be stateside long before my child is old enough to be in any of these guys classes,” he said. “It’s too bad because they really seem like dedicated terrific people.”
Top base leadership agreed that East Anglia is home to top-notch educators.
Col. Michael Winters, 100th ARW vice commander, met with the group of teachers just prior to their flight, lauded their dedication and contributions to his airmen’s children, and expressed his gratitude for what they do every day.
Two of the teachers, Jan Oldfield and Philip Revell, hail from Beck Row Primary School, where the student body is comprised of nearly 50 percent American students.
“We teach many of the base’s children,” said Oldfield, Beck Row Primary School’s head teacher. She explained the profound feeling she has in teaching these sky-borne heroes children the essential curriculum they will need later in life.
After watching the F-15s get their load of fuel, tip their wings in a note of thanks, then zoom off into the clouds above, Elaine Secker, Lakenheath Community Primary School teacher, also shared her perspective.
“You know, it is quite possible that one of those pilots has a son or daughter at my school,” said Secker. “Wouldn’t it be brilliant if he told his child that their teacher was miles above England aboard a KC-135 watching their dad work today?”
All teachers agreed that what the aircrews do is second to none and said they take pride in the privilege they have of teaching the next generation of British and American children. “For these children may someday be the next wave of service members keeping our nation safe.”