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    OEF anniversary: Deployed tanker pilots discuss supporting Afghanistan ops

    OEF Anniversary: Deployed Tanker Pilots Discuss Supporting Afghanistan Ops

    Photo By Scott Sturkol | A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon is about to be refueled by a KC-10 Extender from...... read more read more

    SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - In the past nine years, Air Mobility Command statistics show AMC tankers have off-loaded more than 12.2 billion pounds of fuel to aircraft for worldwide military operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom.

    Since OEF began on Oct. 7, 2001, AMC airmen from the active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve flying KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders have been a large contributor to the success of the operation. Some of those tanker airmen deployed today say they are more than happy to do their part in providing "rapid global air mobility."

    "It is extremely rewarding knowing that we play a critical and pivotal role in the ongoing war in Afghanistan," said Capt. Sean Flynn, a KC-10 pilot deployed to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. "With the constant supply of tanker gas, we can enable our fellow service members on the ground and in the air to continue to do their mission."

    Flynn, an Air Force Reservist deployed from the 514th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., said "conditions in this war are tough."

    "We often fly long hours and in extreme weather conditions," said Flynn, whose hometown is Gulf Breeze, Fla. "You really see the big picture while working in the area of responsibility. It takes everyone from the base support staff, to the bus drivers, to the maintainers to help get us to the end result which is a successful mission in which we can deliver well needed gas to help the fight."

    Capt. Michael Jackson, also a KC-10 pilot with the 908th EARS, said having the opportunity to support the recent surge and overall operations in Afghanistan continues to be "humbling."

    "I have friends -- Marines and airmen -- from high school who are on the ground currently in Afghanistan," said Captain Jackson, who is deployed from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "I still keep in contact with them to this day. Each time I fly, I try to think of them and the support they need. I also realize that my part is such a small peace in the overall sacrifice that many of my childhood friends are making down there. I'm just glad to be a part of their support and I do it for them."

    Jackson said completing combat air refueling missions takes a team effort with every member of the KC-10 aircrew doing their job to the best of their ability.

    "Much of the challenges have come from my experiences [in flying combat missions] as an aircraft commander," Jackson said. "As a fairly new aircraft commander, I lean heavily on my crew. We have top-notch airmen in the KC-10. I say the best. Being both a pilot and the leader of a crew is extremely challenging. We all know the weight that rests on our shoulders. I owe my crew all the admiration and credit for each mission that we accomplish."

    From January through August 2010, in all operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, tankers have flown more than 11,000 sorties off-loading more than 688 million pounds of fuel to more than 54,000 U.S. and coalition aircraft, Air Forces Central statistics show. In Afghanistan, Flynn said tanker airmen overcome challenges every day while flying, and all those people who support the deployed air refueling mission have plenty of reasons to be proud.

    "Communication is often one of our biggest challenges," Flynn said. "The rugged terrain and conditions in Afghanistan make radio relays difficult at times. We often fly up to two hours before we are finally on station in country to support our receivers. The ops tempo demand is very high and the planes are getting worked hard. Luckily, we have the best maintainers in the military who keep our aging fleet in great condition for us to be able to conduct our missions successfully."

    Over the nine years of OEF, many tanker aircrew members have surpassed flying 100 combat air refueling sorties and more. In September, Capt. Tyson Frost of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, was one of those Airmen.

    Frost, a career Guard and Reserve KC-135 pilot deployed from Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., said he's doing what he loves every time he flies an air refueling mission over Afghanistan.

    "I'm so lucky I get paid for doing what I love," said Frost, whose a resident of Spokane, Wash.

    Flynn may have said it best for all tanker airmen after finishing what he called an "intense" air refueling mission over Afghanistan in September.

    "Knowing that not only were we able to support our receivers, but help a critical ground battle was definitely a highlight," Flynn said. "It really gives you satisfaction, both personally and professionally, in knowing that we are able to make an impact over here."

    (Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, and Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Buzanowski, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this story.)

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.06.2010
    Date Posted: 10.06.2010 17:39
    Story ID: 57634
    Location: SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, IL, US 

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