SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Her Air Force calling started like many others who came before – speaking with a recruiter near her hometown in Washington. It was 2009 and she was with her mother who had pulled her out of school under the disguise of having a day to spend time together; their first stop was the AF recruiter’s office.
Before Staff Sgt. Rebecca Rains knew it she found herself in the delayed entry program patiently waiting on her job to come open before departing for Basic Military Training. Her AF career has been anything but status quo since.
“I waited nine months for my slot to come open and I went off [in February 2010],” Rains said in a coffee shop near her deployed office. “Every experience I’ve had in the Air Force has been awesome and, for the most part, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I got to fly in an F-16 during my first enlistment which was the second coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Fast-forward seven years and her energy and ambition as an Airman are stronger than ever while serving at an undisclosed location here in the region. Recently Rains was afforded the opportunity to take the oath of enlistment in a unique way – in a KC-10 Extender, 30,000 feet over Syria and during an air refueling of an F-22 Raptor pilot. The pilot, Lt. Col. August Pfluger, administered the oath and is the 380th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander – Rains’ deployed unit.
“This was the coolest thing I’ve done [since joining],” Rains said. “So I get on the headset and I’m talking to him and he shared with me some background about his mission prior to coming up for fuel. He then said ‘You ready to do this?’ and I said ‘yep let’s go’. He started the oath and I was kind of nervous so he had to repeat the first part; but from there on out it was smooth and I was able to thank him. Everything just lined up perfectly and the fact that he was able to do this was more meaningful to me.”
Pfluger administered the oath just 11 minutes after completing his tasking in Syria.
“Staff Sgt. Rains and her team had actually helped make the mission a success and participated in the development of this mission,” he said. “She’s an absolute superstar in a field of really talented people.”
The refueling flight was nearly eight hours and the re-enlistment was at the very end of the mission before the crew turned the tanker back toward its deployed home. According to Rains she knew she wanted to re-enlist in a KC-10 but she never expected for things to fall in place the way they did.
“I really like the Air Force and I’m very passionate about my job,” she said. “People are motivated in different ways and being out here supporting real-world operations and seeing the impact that my job provides for the AOR internally motivates me. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity.”
When asked about the uniqueness of this particular re-enlistment Pfluger shared his perspective.
“This one was by far the most memorable because it involved a team in a very unique place. The Air Force is lucky to retain [Rains] for another four years and I was honored to be asked to do this,” he said.
Rains intends to use her next enlistment to work towards completing her undergraduate education and earning a commission.