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    Travis KC-10 'driver,' Highland native, soars to new deployment heights from Southwest Asia location

    KC-10 in Southwest Asia

    Photo By Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun | A KC-10 Extender is parked on the flightline at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia...... read more read more



    Story by Senior Airman Jenifer Calhoun 

    380th Air Expeditionary Wing

    SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Every time 1st Lt. Matthew Simpkins starts up the engines of a KC-10 Extender from his deployed location, the tanker "driver" says he knows he's making a difference for the troops on the ground.

    Simpkins, deployed with the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, flies the Air Force's largest tanker -- an air refueling giant capable of holding more than 55,000 gallons of fuel. The three and a half year Air Force veteran said what he and his fellow aircrew members complete on each air refueling mission is affecting troops on the front lines of operations.

    "As a KC-10 co-pilot, it is my duties to fly the KC-10 Extender into the combat area of operations delivering much needed fuel to the fighters who protect friendly coalition forces on the ground such as in Afghanistan," said Simpkins, who graduated of San Gorgonio High School in 1998 in his hometown of Highland, Calif. "On average, we fly three to four times a week amassing around 30 hours of flight time."

    According to its Air Mobility Command fact sheet, the KC-l0's primary mission is aerial refueling but it can also combine the tasks of a tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters and simultaneously carry the fighter support personnel and equipment on overseas deployments. The KC-10 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

    The KC-10 has a lot of capabilities, but the lieutenant said he believes its biggest impact today is supporting the fighter aircraft providing close-air support for ground troops in places like Afghanistan.

    "After conversing with many of the fighter pilots who fly in Afghanistan, the air portion of the war could not survive at all without the abilities of the KC-10 and the rest of the tanker fleet," Simpkins said. "Having a KC-10 orbiting in the theater of operations allows fighters to remain on station for a longer period of time, providing much needed air patrols for friendly ground forces."

    Deployed from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Simpkins said he knows it can often be tough to be deployed but that everyone is doing their best in meeting the deployed mission's every day requirements. He also said he's honored to be a part of an organization that is making an impact all around the world.

    "While it is tough being away from family, especially over the holidays, it is an honor to follow in the footsteps of my family members," said Simpkins, who is also a 2004 graduate of California State University at San Bernardino. "Being able to defend not only our great country, but to also assist other nations to enjoy the freedoms in which we take for granted is satisfying. Though I may not see the impact, it is an honor to know that I took part in providing for the peace and freedom of people all over the world."

    The 908th EARS is an attached unit of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. The 380th AEW is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. The wing supports Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.



    Date Taken: 01.29.2010
    Date Posted: 01.30.2010 00:01
    Story ID: 44624

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