340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron “Rock-N the M-ish” as they fuel the fight!
By Senior Airman Kia Atkins, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 05, 2015
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- Flying more than 11,000 sorties, one of the U.S. Air Force’s largest combat flying squadron in history, the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron “Pythons”, provided over 82 million gallons of gas to aircraft supporting combat air missions in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
The Pythons fly the KC-135 Stratotankers to provide operational aircraft the reach capability needed to accomplish the Combined Forces Air Component Commander’s air campaign objectives in the region.
“We have a great capacity to offload fuel here which in turn, enables air power and air superiority within the AOR with any air campaign that we support,” said Senior Master Sgt. Arie Latimer, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron chief boom operator.
Maj. Jay Bertsch, 379th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander added, “The KC-135s give all the other platforms the capability to extend their reach so they can fly farther and spend more time loitering in the air. More gas in the air means more capability.”
Because of increased operations in Syria and Iraq, there was a need for more KC-135s in the AOR to fuel the fight. In 2014, the 340th EARS and 340th EAMU have doubled in both number of aircraft and personnel – a feat that could not have been accomplished without total force integration.
“We are comprised of a Total Force Integration out here and we couldn’t do our operations without it,” Bertsch said. “All of our personnel come from active, Guard and Reserve components and I will tell you personally, that we could not accomplish the mission here without all of these great Airmen.”
Airmen from the 340th EARS achieved many milestones in 2014 by setting and exceeding all tanker records from sorties executed, hours flown, receivers refueled and fuel offloaded, supporting overwatch of the Afghanistan presidential election and providing combat and airdrop support for Operation Inherent Resolve.
“We have made a big difference supporting the war effort as a whole,” said Master Sgt. Kevin Wesson, 340th EAMU production superintendent. “All the aircraft that come and go from the AOR are supported by us. We provide the gas that helps make their missions happen. It’s a point of pride to know what we have done and continue to do to support combat operations out here in the theater.”
The mission capability of the KC-135 to provide in-flight refueling reduces the risk and need for aircraft to land and refuel.
“The AOR is vast,” said Lt. Col. Van Thai, 340th EARS commander. “Our enemies and mission sets are farther away, so our aircraft need to be able to get to where they are needed most. We go where we are directed and where our receivers need us to be so we can provide the fuel to keep the mission going.”
The KC-135 would not be able to supply fuel to their receivers without being supported by maintenance Airmen.
“You’re not going to fly without maintenance,” said Airman 1st Class Erica Luedtke, 340th EAMU. “Somebody has to be here to fix the aircraft. If we weren’t here, the jets wouldn’t get off the ground, and the other jets wouldn’t be able to get where they need to go.”
Because of the support provided by 340th EAMU maintainers, the 340th EARS is able to fuel the fight making it possible to extend the range and persistence of air operations in the region and enabling coalition aircraft to maintain a 24/7 presence in the AOR.
“I will tell you personally that this is the most gratifying job I’ve had in my 24 years in the Air Force,” said Bertsch. “Seeing these aircraft take off puts a smile on my face every day. That’s mission accomplishment for me.”