Area leaders experience thrill of air refueling mission
By Steven J. Merrill, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 29, 2018
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Thirteen area leaders from the Black Hills had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a key part of the Air Mobility Command mission firsthand during civic leader orientation flights June 26 and 27.
The civic and business leaders, who ranged from the chief of the Rapid City Police Department to the executive director of the Ellsworth Task Force, participated in the flights aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, flying training missions out of Ellsworth.
“It was amazing to see such a high degree of professionalism from everyone involved,” said Karl Jegeris, RCPD chief who was on the flight that refueled a RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft from Offutt AFB, Nebraska. “The ground crew, flight crew and the office staff who worked behind the scenes were simply amazing … this defined teamwork at its best.”
The second group participated in a mission that included refueling a B-52 Stratofortress from Minot AFB, North Dakota.
Melanie Barclay, Make-A-Wish South Dakota regional director and a member of the Ellsworth Honorary Commander program, said she was very impressed with the skills of the aircrew and the aerial ballet that played out between the aircraft.
“I find it incredible that the two jets can fly so close together at such great speeds in a safe way,” she said upon witnessing the lifeblood of projecting airpower being transferred from one aircraft to another. “Most people could not say that they've flown so close to another plane that they could wave to the other pilots.”
Airman Sarah Cason of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron was the boom operator for both flights. She said in addition to having the opportunity to train with different aircraft, she thoroughly enjoyed meeting the civic leaders and being able to showcase the capabilities of the KC-135.
“It was great to meet new people and help them better understand our mission,” the Alabama native said. Air refueling is one of AMC’s four core mission areas: air refueling, airlift, air mobility support and aeromedical evacuation. AMC also provides support to the nuclear enterprise.
“I’m very proud to be a part of AMC,” she said. “Helping people understand what we do and our jobs is a key part of what we do, and flights like this help us do that.”
Civic leader orientation flights, which require Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs approval and major command coordination, are for individuals who can have a positive impact on public understanding of the roles and missions of the Department of Defense and Air Force.
“My experiences with the aircrew and Airmen on the ground were amazing,” said Josh Farley, a financial advisor for a national investment firm. “This experience gives me information to have an informed conversation with others who might have their facts out of order. I think small interactions like this help immensely.”