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Niagara hones air refueling skills during MacDill mission

An A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft with the 122nd Fighter Wing (FW), Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., closes in to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018.

An A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft with the 122nd Fighter Wing (FW), Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., closes in to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The 914th Air Refueling Wing, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., visited MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., to hone their aerial refueling skills while simultaneously supporting Operation Guardian Blitz, an exercise that provides training on close air support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Moe Shivers, a boom operator assigned to the 914th Operations Support Squadron, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Moe Shivers, a boom operator assigned to the 914th Operations Support Squadron, Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft over Avon Park, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The A-10s, assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind., conducted Operation Guardian Blitz, which includes training in close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Fadem, director of operations, and Capt. Travis Richards, a co-pilot, both assigned to the 328th Air Refueling Squadron from Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., taxi a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Justin Fadem, director of operations, and Capt. Travis Richards, a co-pilot, both assigned to the 328th Air Refueling Squadron from Niagara Air Reserve Station, N.Y., taxi a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 30, 2018. The training mission called for aerial refueling of A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft with the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Ind. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks)

MacDill Air Force Base --

Aircrew from the 914th Air Refueling Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, Niagara Falls, N.Y., capitalized on their mission to MacDill Air Force Base Florida, 19 Jan. to 2 Feb., in support of Operation Guardian Blitz.

During the two-week long exercise, aircrew from the 914th ARW provided air to air refueling for A-10s assigned to the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Indiana, and fulfilled their training requirements alongside their Air Force Reserve counterparts from the 927th ARW.

“Starting the first day we arrived, we scheduled our commanders to fly with instructor pilots from the 927th in regular formation and large formations; which is a formation involving more than three aircraft,” said Maj. Justin Fadem, director of operations, 328th Air Refueling Squadron. “Our goal is to be fully mission capable when we get back to Niagara.”

In June 2017, the 914th ARW converted from theC-130s to the KC-135 Stratotanker, the workhorse of the Air Force's air refueling capability.

“The experience that we received here is completely invaluable, the corporate knowledge that you [927ARW] have here is completely untouched,” said Fadem. “You [927ARW] have IPs [Instructor pilots] of all ranks that came in and instructed us on what they do in the plane and how they do it; that is invaluable.”

Qualification for formation flying involves much more than flying within feet of another aircraft. All formation flights start with a complete mission brief by the lead pilot and includes all aspects of the flight profile such as takeoff, flight pattern and emergency procedures. In addition to the 914 ARW pilots receiving their formation certifications, boom operators also completed mission capable requirements.

“This mission is very important, we came down here and refueled about eight A-10s per flight, and we received some great training during the day and night,” said Master Sgt. Maurice Shivers, 328th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator. “The transition has been good but it has been tough at times, it's lot to embrace and a lot training. Once qualified we’ll be able to extend our global reach anywhere in the world at anytime.”

Operation Guardian Blitz, an exercise centralized at Avon Park Air Force Bombing Range, Avon Park, Florida and integrated numerous military units throughout the region, that include KC-135s, rotary assets, Joint Terminal Air Controllers and the Guard A-10 unit.