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KC-135 Stratotanker team keeps warfighters fueled

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing
After realigning the 340th Air Refueling Squadron from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to the 451st Air Expeditionary Group at Kandahar Airfield last year, the additional assets have already seen the impact the move has had on the capability to attack Taliban networks and support U.S. and coalition forces.

Along with the transfer of KC-135 Stratotankers, A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and added MQ-9 Reapers also arrived at Kandahar in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and the NATO Resolute Support mission.

The increased airpower in Kandahar, a region with Taliban influence, ensures the ability to quickly and effectively attack and sustain the enemy, with the KC-135 team keeping that airpower operation fueled.

“This forward-deployment here has allowed us to be intra-connected in the missions of our fighter units,” said Lt. Col. Randy, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron aircraft commander. “Having tankers allows our fighter aircraft to have a persistent presence overhead, but we also lessen the number of assets that have to be over here and the amount of time our troops have to be over here.”

He explained the grueling process to fly their missions out of Al Udeid, leading to 16- to 18-hour days for the flight crews. With the move, their flight times and fuel costs have significantly dropped, allowing them to provide more efficient and sustainable aerial support.

“When we take off, we can get to our positions within 25 minutes instead of two and a half hours, ready to offload gas,” said Master Sgt. Mat, a 340th EARS boom operator. “We can get to the fight faster, we enable our warfighters to stay in their mission longer, and on top of that, we are burning less gas with each sortie.”

Along with the symbiotic relationship between the tankers and fighter jets, Mat and Randy, who have served in the Nebraska Air National Guard together for more than two decades, said their team’s success is a result of their positive working relationships and close friendships. They noted many Air National Guard members remain in one unit or base the majority of their careers.

“We’ve known each other for 27 years, and I was the best man at his wedding,” Randy said. “We get to know each other personally inside and outside of the airplane.”

As an all-Air National Guard team, the eight KC-135 units from New Hampshire, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Illinois, Maine and Nebraska, have become a cohesive team supporting U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan.

For the Nebraska unit, after multiple deployments to Al Udeid, their first time in Kandahar has left a mark.

“I will say this move to Kandahar is the best thing for our tankers, not just in the time saved, but the leadership is outstanding here,” Randy said. “We have flown for five days straight and I’m ready
for more.”