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Military

Fairchild, Grand Forks crews support NATO summit

by Tech. Sgt Scott Wakefield
Air Force Print News


12/5/2006 - ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFPN) -- KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft along with aircrews, crew chiefs and maintainers from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., and Grand Forks AFB, N.D., are augmenting the refueling mission here in support of a NATO Summit mission.

The weeklong deployment by the two stateside units allowed the RAF Mildenhall refueling wing to provide support for a presidential support mission as part of the NATO Summit that took place in Riga, Latvia. The mission included refueling fighters providing air patrol over the Baltic Region. Usually accomplished by NATO, the mission was expanded to protect a greater airspace over an area where 26 heads of state are meeting.

Maj. Steve Preston is Fairchild's assistant director of operations.

"Seeing the teams work together, it was hard to tell where the Mildenhall crews began and the Fairchild and Grand Forks crews ended," he said.

"When we paired up with Mildenhall, our mission rate was really, really good," said Fairchild crew chief Senior Airman Jason Lechot.

The deployed crews flew one-third of all the missions, with every sortie departing on time and each having 100 percent effectiveness, something Major Preston attributes to the outstanding support the three units provided each other.

The chief of weapons at RAF Mildenhall, Capt. John Kelley, believes the ability by all crew members to work together so well is a byproduct of the level of training all refueling teams must accomplish to become fully qualified. He also attributes mission success to their ability to communicate and bring ideas to the table to make the mission flow more smoothly.

Because some team members have worked together before, Captain Kelley said "it was like the family getting back together for Thanksgiving."



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