Selfridge Airmen Begin Rolling Mobilizations

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
The Airmen of the 127th Air Refueling Group have begun a series of rolling mobilizations that is anticipated to keep dozens of members of the Michigan Air National Guard on duty at least for the next year. The new mobilizations are in addition to two ongoing taskings that are keeping local Airmen busy both at home station and abroad.

The Airmen, who fly, maintain and support the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, will begin rotating aircraft, aircrews and support personnel to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, which operates in southwest Asia, in support of U.S. Central Command. From there, the Selfridge Airmen will be called upon to fly missions in and around Afghanistan and other areas in the Central Command Area of Responsibility - a region that covers about 20 countries. The KC-135 can be used for a variety of missions, most notably, as an air-to-air refueler.

"The Airmen of our refueling group are among the best trained and most highly-motivated people in our military," said Col. Michael Thomas, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge, a KC-135 pilot and former commander of the 127th ARG. "I have no doubt that they will continue to make all of us proud as they represent the very best of our home state of Michigan."

To support the needs of CENTCOM, the 127th ARG will be sending an aircrew and various support personnel to the 340th EARS for two-month deployment rotations. The rotations will include anywhere from 10 to 25 people and will often include an aircraft from Selfridge. The first rotation begin in early November. The rotations are expected to continue at least through the end of 2012.

Tanker air crews and maintenance personnel from Selfridge have been on day-to-day call by the Air Mobility Command's Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC) since the unit began flying the KC-135 mission in 2008.

"It is pretty rare for us not to have a crew on the road somewhere to support the TACC," said Lt. Col. David Brooks, commander of the 127th ARG. "This is a good tasking for us, because it keeps our air crews sharp, flying a variety of types of missions and it is a benefit for the Air Force because it increases the capabilities available to our senior leaders."

Generally, about a dozen and a half members of the Michigan Air National Guard are on active duty status at any given time operating from Selfridge to support TACC taskings domestically and globally. Many of the TACC missions flown by Selfridge crews and aircraft are in support of aeromedical evacuations. In those missions, the KC-135s pick-up a specially trained Air Force medical team and related equipment and then are used as essentially a cross between an ambulance and a flying hospital to moved wounded or injured military personnel from one location to another. The aeromedical evacuation missions can range from transporting wounded warriors from Afghanistan to locations in the U.S., to helping injured personnel relocate from one U.S. location to another.

"There are few things that are more satisfying than flying the med-evac mission," said Lt. Col. Jim Rossi, director of operations for the 171st Air Refueling Squadron at Selfridge a KC-135 pilot. "It is an important mission that ensures that we are providing the best possible care for our wounded warriors."

In a yet another deployment tasking, the 127th ARG will be sending aircraft and about four dozen people to a forward location in the U.S. Pacific Command region in March 2012 for about a month. The 127th completed a similar mission for PACCOM in March of this year.

From the Pacific Command location, the Selfridge tankers support a variety of flying missions all around the Pacific Rim.

"When you start adding up a dozen people here, a couple of dozen people there, people who have to get their regular training accomplished and maintain our aircraft for any possible additional missions, it gets to be a complex puzzle with lots of moving pieces," Rossi said.

The 127th ARG begins to serve in this new series of deployments even as another major unit of the Michigan Air National Guard is already serving in Afghanistan. About 300 Citizen-Airmen of the 127th Operations Group and 127th Maintenance Group, which flies and maintains A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft at Selfridge, deployed in late September for a roughly four month period. A smaller contingent of that group will be working on a six-month deployment. Michigan Air National Guard security forces, civil engineers and services personnel have all been forward deployed at various times over the past year, in various-sized groups.

The 127th Air Refueling Group is made up of approximately 360 Citizen-Airmen at Selfridge and includes the following units:
* 171st Air Refueling Squadron
* 191st Operations Support Flight
* 191st Maintenance Squadron
* 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
* 191st Maintenance Operations Flight

The unit began flying KC-135s in 2008 as a result of new missions instituted by the 2005 Base Re-alignment and Closure Commission. Prior to taking on the KC-135 mission, the 127th ARG was known as the 127th Airlift Group and flew C-130 Hercules tactical cargo aircraft for about 15 years. The unit's final major deployment with the C-130 came when most of the group spent the last six months of 2006 in Afghanistan.

The KC-135 is based on a Boeing 707 aircraft and has been in use by the U.S. Air Force since the late 1950s. It generally flies with a crew of three Airmen and can carry a load of up to 200,000 pounds of fuel for aerial delivery.

The flying unit of the 127th ARG, the 171st ARS, traces its history back to World War II. In 1943, the 374th Fighter Squadron was created to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt in the European Command. In 1946, after the conclusion of the war, the unit was redesignated as the 171st and assigned to the Michigan Air National Guard. In the 1970s, the unit flew the F-106 Delta Dart and picked up a distinctive nickname - the Michigan Six-Pack. The 171st flew fighter aircraft from the time of the unit's inception through 1994, when it made the transition to the C-130. The Six-Pack nickname - and the unit's black and yellow checkerboard tail markings - continue to be used by the 127th ARG.

The 127th ARG is a component of the 127th Wing. Composed of approximately 1,700 Citizen-Airmen, the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host organization at Selfridge, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is an air-to-ground attack fighter. In addition to the Wing, Selfridge is home to numerous other military and federal agencies, which fly a variety of helicopters and small, light fixed-wing aircraft.

More information on the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is available at www.127wg.ang.af.mil.