914th Airmen return home from first KC-135 deployment

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Nichols
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Dozens of Airmen from the 914th Operations and Maintenance Groups along with four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft returned home to Niagara on December 12 and 13, following a four month deployment to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.  The return marked the completion of the first deployment for the 914th Air Refueling Wing in the KC-135 since converting from the C-130 Hercules in 2017.


According to wing leadership, switching from tactical airlift to aerial refueling is no easy task, but the 914th was declared fully mission capable on April 1, 2020, and deployed four months later in support of Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support.


For some members of the wing, this first KC-135 deployment was déjà vu, albeit with a twist.


“I was on the last deployment in 2016 and it was bittersweet to have my last actual no kidding C-130 flight at Al Udeid before I went to KC-135 training,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Jakubczyk, 914th Operations Support Squadron commander.  “Being one of the last (914th) guys to fly the C-130 in combat and then being one of the first Airmen to go out the door with the tanker on our first deployment operationally was kind of amazing.”


Niagara aircraft delivered roughly 9 million pounds of fuel across an estimated 900 joint coalition receiver aircraft over Southwest Asia.


Summing up the success of this latest deployment in a new mission set, Lt. Col. Ryan Smith, 328th Air Refueling Squadron commander had high praise for all involved.


“It’s a big accomplishment for the base. It’s a big stepping stone and the biggest thing is we got the mission done,” said Smith.  “We did it correctly, we did it well, and the people are home with their loved ones. It just shows the teamwork this base has and what the Airmen of the base are capable of doing."


In addition to the military teamwork that is required for a successful deployment,  the well-being of family members left on the home-front is equally important.  For newlywed MacKenzie Taylor, whose husband is Staff Sgt. Alex Taylor, 914th Maintenance Squadron, the challenge of their first deployment was made easier by reaching out to the 914th Key Spouse support group.


“Deployment is hard, but it’s not bad,” said MacKenzie.  “Key Spouse was always there for us and it’s a very family like atmosphere.  Alex and I really love the 914th and we are really happy to be here.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.”