French help fuel Operation Enduring Freedom
by Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
4/2/2007 - MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFNEWS) -- In pursuing the war on terrorism, the United States fights side-by-side with its coalition partners.
One of the fundamental missions here at the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing is the aerial refueling mission accomplished by the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In this vital mission, they are joined by the Manas detachment of the Groupe de Ravitaillement en Vol 93 or Flight Refueling Group 93 "Bretagne."
The name Bretagne, referring to the region in France, is a legacy name originating from the first flying groups formed by the Free French resistance movement in World War II.
The Groupe, who maintain their own hangar on the airfield, have been here since March 2002 supporting OEF and the International Security Assistance Force as Operation Serpentaire-Heracles.
Based out of Istres Air Base in Provence, France, the Groupe accomplishes its mission of refueling the French Mirage, a multi-role combat fighter, with a modified version of the U.S. Air Force's own KC-135 Stratotanker known as the C-135FR.
In addition to French fighters, the Groupe also refuels other coalition aircraft taking part in OEF including U.S. F-18 Hornets, A-10s and F-16 Fighting Falcons.
French coalition tours here are about five to six weeks and rotate back every three to four months from home base.
Given the short tours, members of the detachment rarely have time off as they fly as many missions as time will allow, said Maj. Laurent Paquot, the French coalition detachment commander.
Many of these are dedicated totally to U.S. fighters.
In addition to its refueling capability, the floor of the C-135FR is reinforced in order to pull extra duty as a cargo plane.
This allows the Groupe to logistically support more than 30,000 French soldiers deployed in Africa, South America and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
While air-to-air refueling for operations such as OEF is very important, the primary mission of the Groupe is performing air-to-air refueling for the French Nuclear Deterrence and French Strategic Air Command.
The men and women of the GRV 93 live, eat and sleep here the same as their American and Spanish Coalition counterparts.
"In 2002, we lived in tents, and now we have big rooms with big beds," said Major Paquot, who is on his fourth tour here. "The quality of the support is much better now," he said.
The goals in pursuing the fight in Enduring Freedom are the same regardless of the coalition country involved.
"We refuel the same aircraft as your tankers, we have the same missions," said Major Paquot. "I remember a sign at Prince Sultan Air Base that read 'One Team, One Fight,' here it is the same."
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|