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168th Wing takes Airmen to the skies during Red Flag Alaska Aerial Refueling Mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168thWing

The 168th Wing has a unique role in delivering vital air refueling support in the Pacific and Arctic regions and plays a crucial part in every Red Flag at Eielson Air Force Base, ensuring the high operational tempo and teamwork exercise are refueled. The refueling provided by the 168 WG strengthens the training and interoperability amongst the hundreds of allies and partners participating. During the iteration of Red Flag-Alaska 24-2, the 168 WG continued connecting and training with their partners and allies, including providing incentive flights to the maintainers, a physical therapist, and flight hours for the flight docs taking part in RF-Alaska.

“The experience of engaging and working with others as part of Red Flag is a great opportunity to meet people from all over our Air Force,” said Staff Sgt. Devin Farnsworth, 168th Wing Boom Operator. “Helping them to understand our air refueling mission is rewarding; knowing they were a part of getting the aircraft in the air and seeing their faces light up with amazement is a great day.”

The 168 WG took the 25th and 51st Fighter Squadron maintainers to the skies, providing them a unique and unforgettable experience. They witnessed aircraft refueling from the back of the KC-135 Stratotanker, a sight that deepened their understanding of the mission and appreciation for the 168th Wing's refueling support. It also fostered a stronger sense of camaraderie, and the maintainers saw firsthand what their dedication provides.

"All the long shifts in my career supporting the mission are worth it, seeing the flying mission up close and the aerial refueling," said Senior Airman Leonardo Garcia, 51st Maintenance Aerospace Ground Equipment, "It was cool to be included in the mission and to see our hard work in action in the skies, supporting and defending."

Staff Sgt. Alexie Delgado, 51st Maintenance Aircraft Technology on the A-10 Warthog, agreed, "Seeing the mission from this vantage point makes all our hard work worth it."

The Air Force and Air Guard maintainers are the backbone of operations with their unwavering dedication and hard work during long shifts and harsh elements. They ensure combat aircraft are ready for each demanding mission, a role that could prove essential to fighters operating in compromised airspace. The maintainers ensure reliable aircraft are ready at a moment's notice.

The Flight Doctors from the 25th Fighter Squadron and the 354th Fighter Wing, who also participated in Red Flag, increased their flight hours on board the 168 WG KC-135 Stratotanker as part of the air refueling mission: Lt. Col. Kendall Vermilion, 25th Fighter Squadron flight doc, and Capt. Parker Spriggs, 355th Fighter Squadron flight doc, are also pediatricians with special roles in caring for pilots and their families. The flight docs ensure people are ready at a moment's notice. Flight surgeons must log flight hours as part of their aerospace medicine practice.

"When Airmen have the opportunity to see another part of a process, it offers them a more comprehensive understanding of the bigger picture, said Vermilion. "This increased understanding often leads to improved effectiveness and dedication as individuals grasp how they and their contributions fit within the Air Force mission."

Capt. Turner MacPhee, a physical therapist from the 354th Fighter Wing, shared, "One of the reasons for me to come on board was to see how the crew operates and how I could help members as a physical therapist."

The KC-135 tanker aircrew hosted the passengers on board the air refueling mission to provide an experience to the maintainers and flight surgeons unlike anything else in their military careers. The incentive flight also provides familiarity with briefing passengers for the boom operators who oversee the safety of anyone on board.

At the end of the flight, Master Sgt. Daniel Kaufmann, 168th Wing boom operator, thanked the Airmen for joining the crew for the flight and shared, "A little bit of AR, and we got to hang out for a little while – that's a lot of what we do is waiting in the sky, being available for aircraft to refuel. We had one last fighter come up in the end and say I need the last top-off so I can go back to the fight again. We flew around to ensure all the fighters made it on the ground. That's why waiting at the end feels a little long."

The maintainers and physical therapist saw several aircraft being refueled by the boom operators over the Alaska mountain ranges.

Red Flag Alaska is a Pacific-led exercise that provides an operational experience for U.S. and international forces to train together and build enduring relationships.