Tanker Airmen 'Fly the Fleet' at Selfridge

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Ready, set, launch. More than 200 Airmen from the 127th Air Refueling Group worked together to launch a fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers at Selfridge Air National Guard Base Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.

The Airmen launched five of the eight KC-135s assigned to Selfridge

Just the fact that all eight of the group's aircraft were all at home station at the same time was remarkable in and of itself. Typically anywhere from one to four of the unit's aircraft are on deployment at any given time, with another one hangared on the base during a scheduled major maintenance overhaul.

"This exercise demonstrates our capability and our readiness at any point," said Senior Master Sgt. Tommy Tucker, flight chief of the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "But really, this exercise just shows the type of work we're doing on a day-in and day-out basis."

Just in 2012, KC-135s and Airmen from the 127th ARG have been deployed to southwest Asia, in support of operations in the Afghanistan region; to Germany; Guam; Estonia; Alaska; and South Africa; and have flown numerous missions out of Selfridge in support of a variety of domestic flights and other aircraft movements.

The flight allows air crews to fulfill a training requirement to fly in a large formation, but also pays dividends in other ways, said Lt. Col. John Okkonen, a KC-135 instructor pilot with the 171st Air Refueling Squadron.

"This is a morale builder, both for the air crews and the maintenance squadrons," he said.

"Our maintainers come in on a project like this, its cold out on the field, its still dark out. It takes a tremendous team effort," Okkonen said.

Master Sgt. James Wade said the weekend's "fly the fleet" exercise required the coordinated efforts of maintenance personnel and air crew members.

"From our youngest Airmen to our most senior people, everyone has to work together," said Wade, production superintendent of the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "You need people at every level, starting in the back shop to fix the parts, the flight line guys to launch the aircraft and the aircrews who fly them. It is a team effort."

The component units of the 127th Air Refueling Group are the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, the 191st Operation Support Flight, the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the 191st Maintenance Squadron and the 191st Maintenance Operations Flight. The 127th Air Refueling Group is a subordinate unit of the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard.

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marked its 95th year of continuous military air operations in 2012.