An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

380th AEW and 908th EARS KC-10 Extender year in review

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kenneth Moss
  • 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron commander
One of the biggest challenges I have faced during my time as a deployed commander is getting service members from other communities and specialties to understand what air refueling is all about. It is very easy for all professionals to lapse into jargon when talking about their accomplishments and expect everyone to understand what they mean, and flyers are no different. However, I learned from a couple of my mentors that I should "translate" our accomplishments into ideas and concepts others could relate to, so I'll give it a try.

The statistic I discuss most often is the fact that we deliver one million pounds of fuel to the fight every day. Just for reference, one million pounds of fuel is about the same amount of water that is in a standard six-lane pool about 25 yards long. It is also about the same amount of fuel that nine standard fuel trucks deliver to a gas station. On a personal level, it is enough gas for a passenger car to drive to the moon and back...12 times!

But there was much more to what the KC-10 Extender did on a daily basis. The average sortie length of a KC-10 mission in Southwest Asia in 2011 was about eight hours, meaning every time a crew went to fly, they flew the equivalent of Washington, D.C., to Frankfurt, Germany. Crews made this flight, on average, two times in a row before getting a day off, and then they did it all over again. Every day, my squadron flew enough hours to circle the globe twice. As they flew, the crews offloaded fuel at a rate that equaled filling up a standard car gas tank in about one second (think about that the next time you're standing at the pump).

Personally, I think all of those statistics are pretty impressive, and figured if I took a look at the yearly metrics I would truly appreciate what my squadron had accomplished. In 2011, the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron offloaded more than 390 million pounds of fuel to more than 28,000 airplanes; that's enough fuel to cover a soccer field that's 96 feet deep. We flew more than 36,700 hours in almost 4,600 missions. In fact, all other Air Mobility Command KC-10s flew only 16,700 hours, which means the 908th EARS flew over twice as many hours as all other KC-10 units combined with less than one-third of the KC-10 fleet at their disposal. To do this, we averaged more than four airplanes in the air every minute, of every hour, of every day in 2011. That is a real credit to great maintainers.

But the most important unit accomplishment in the last year is this one: my unit provided about one-third of the airborne fuel used to protect our ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, allowing us to support 1,643 troops-in-contact events, 1,488 shows-of-force, 1,445 strikes and 2,555 priority events. Broken out another way, the 908th EARS provided critical aerial refueling to support four-and-a-half TICs, four SOFs, four strikes and seven priority events every day.

That last point is the most important aspect of anything we did in 2011 because each of those supported events represents someone's mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter who was given air superiority to defeat an enemy seeking to do them harm; each event means someone at home will not be getting bad news from a uniformed officer and chaplain walking to their front door; and, each event reinforces the reputation of the United States Air Force as providing unparalleled responsiveness and unquestioned air dominance.

My squadron cannot take sole credit for any one of those events. There is no way my crews can fly without excellent billeting and food from force support; they are kept safe by the professionals in the fire department and security forces; they stay in contact with the Combined Air and Space Operations Center due to the diligence of the communications squadron; their fuel is provided by experts in logistics readiness; rooms and roads are kept serviceable by highly skilled Airmen in the civil engineer squadron; they get the equipment they need from a responsive contracting squadron; and, most importantly, the jets are kept flying by the most professional group of maintainers ever assembled.

I began writing this year-in-review with a plan to tout the incredible accomplishments of the KC-10, and I am still in awe of what this jet can do every day. However, I am more in awe of the Airmen who ensure that each and every mission flown has a minimum amount of issues and a maximum amount of professionalism.

I am lucky because I am surrounded by Airmen who make a difference, Airmen who probably have no idea that each and every day they make a significant and positive impact on the lives of troops and people in Afghanistan and America. Let there be no doubt, every mission we do is important. Every mission may have someone's life hanging in the balance. Every mission may be the one that tips the scales forever. We must be ready for it, and so far we have proven we are.

The 908th EARS and the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing had an incredible year in 2011, but I know 2012 will be even better!