AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR --
After being re-activated in 2003 and now part of one of the largest air campaigns in world history, the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and their fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers are relied upon by U.S. and coalition aircraft. But planes can’t refuel themselves, can they?
A small percent of the Air Force flying world is occupied by enlisted airmen. One just happens to be a full-time financial analyst refueling a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail over the Middle East.
“I’ve been blessed to do this job now coming up on 23 years part time. I work full time as a finical business advisor back home”, said Senior Master Sgt. Barry, 340th EARS Boom Operator. “I typically fly one night a week after work.”
As an Air National Guard member, Barry is able to serve as a boom operator while holding a full-time position during the day. He mentioned that it is a ‘nice change of pace’ after working in an office during the day and refueling aircraft at night. The variety of both jobs keeps Barry busy, but in a good way.
However, not flying on a frequent basis has some draw backs that keep the ANG boom operator career interesting. Some of the biggest challenges they encounter are staying up to date with training currencies and dealing with flight cancellations at home station. Deployments help mitigate those challenges for Air National Guardsmen.
Barry was excited to talk about the chances he’s had to deploy. He mentioned that this is what they trained for, ‘flying real word missions’, and helping people out. One of his favorite flights was spent assisting an aeromedical evacuation.
“Those are kind of unique but it was helping people, and that’s what it’s all about.”
‘Booms’ are responsible not only for air refueling, but also taking care of passengers and anything else that the aircraft may be loaded with. Barry said that if they have any cargo, he just switches roles and becomes a loadmaster. This speaks about the versatility that drew him to the career. There is more than one aspect that made him join the flying world.
“My dad was actually a boom operator,” said Barry. “I saw how much he enjoyed it as a fulltime, so I took advantage of it, and here I am some 23 years later.”
After joining the ANG and completing four years as a munitions airman, he cross-trained to become a boom operator. Later, with 23 years of service and several deployments under his belt, it is visible that Barry is eager and loves his job, and his job is a booming legacy.