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.