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Stratotanker, Airmen prove versatility, save lives downrange

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Donald Breitkreutz, Jr.
  • 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron
After 12 years of KC-135 Stratotanker operations here, it would be fair to assume that all possible missions the venerable tanker is capable of performing has been done.

Last week, members of the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in coordination with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron performed the first patient transport employing the floor-loaded stanchion litter system, thus proving there are still additional missions the KC-135 can perform.

This mission was made possible by a true display of the Total Force Integration including not only the organizations listed above but including the key efforts of the 340th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron's air terminal operations center personnel. These four organizations, made up of members from active duty, Air National Guard and reserve personnel, came together as a seamless team of professionals ensuring the safe passage for 11 wounded warriors to essential medical care at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

To clarify, this mission, which had never been performed from this location, went from concept to reality in less than 24 hours. The 618th Air and Space Operations Center also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center contacted the 340th EARS with the support request. With all required details to accomplish the mission in hand, the teams began to coalesce around the requirement and more importantly the desire to support the wounded. In just under 12 hours, the aircraft was prepared by the 340th EAMXS maintenance personnel and configured by boom operators from the 340th EARS and members of the 8th EAMS.

On the morning of Sept. 7, the patient transport bus arrived at the aircraft, and in less than an hour the KC-135 left here en route to Ramstein with the wounded warriors onboard. In a little more than six hours, the patients were being transferred to the appropriate medical facilities while the aircraft was reconfigured for its continued trip home. At the same time, the aeromedical evacuation staff prepared for the rotation back in theater to continue providing world-class en route medical care to those fighting for our freedom.

This mission only required 23 aircrew members and aeromedical evacuation personnel trained in KC-135 floor load configuration and egress. It eliminated the need for an additional C-17 Globemaster III transport sortie, saving more than $92,000.

These Airmen saved 11 of our country's bravest. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

[Editor's note: Breitkreutz is the 340th EARS chief boom operator deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and a Hico, W.V., native.]