EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Twice a day during Northern Edge 2017, maintainers work to ensure each pilot’s jet is prepped, properly fueled and ready to fly.
Up in the air, members assigned to the 909th Air Refueling Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, take over and ensure the training mission isn’t cut short due to a lack fuel supply.
“We are here as force enablers and force multipliers who allow for longer missions for the fighter jets, so they can get the most out of their training time,” said Maj. Scott Karl, a 909th ARS KC-135 instructor pilot. “Without a refueling tanker, fighter jets would be limited on how far they fly and it would diminish the extent of training received.”
Providing fuel for both red and blue forces during the largest exercise held in Alaska this year, lessons can be learned from all participants involved, including the tanker task force.
“The amount of time spent in the air for the aircraft depends directly on how well we perform our job,” said Capt. Justin Munger, a 909th ARS aircraft commander. “I wanted our crew to learn to operate well with joint services and allow them to successfully experiment with their new equipment.”
Refueling requires a large amount of coordination from all parties involved, from the tanker to the fighter jet, with the boom operator playing middle man.
“It is my job to communicate with the approaching aircraft and keep tabs on how much fuel they need before disconnecting,” said Tech. Sgt. Chad Holloway, a 909th ARS boom operator. “We refuel about 10 aircraft each sortie and dispense about 170,000 pounds of fuel.”
A more seasoned participant, with his eighth time performing refueling missions in Alaska, Holloway looks back at one memory that reminds him of the importance of training and the force multiplying capabilities his squadron brings to the fight.
“I saw an F-16 pilot go down near the Bering Sea a few years back and we were the first to respond to the scene,” said Holloway. “We were able to call the Coast Guard and get him picked up safely which was cool to see and motivates me to keep going.”
Although NE17 will soon be in the 909th's rearview, they will continue to support flying missions globally.
“The favorite part of my job is how flexible our crew is and having them to fly around with,” said Munger. “When it comes to supporting missions, we try to be there when we can, wherever we can, and as often as we can.”