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Airmen support NATO AWACS operations

by Capt. Kevin Coffman
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/17/2007 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFPN)  -- Twenty-eight thousand feet in the sky above Hamburg, Germany, and more than 4,200 miles from home, a crew from a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling squadron supports a NATO E-3 Sentry.

Airmen of the 126th Air Refueling Squadron from the Wisconsin Air National Guard stationed at Gen. Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee are operating out of Spangdahlem Air Base for a two-week-long mission to support NATO operations. 

Ten Spangdahlem AB Airmen were invited to fly with the crew and observe in-air refueling operations.

"It was exciting during the takeoff because I got to sit in the cockpit area," said Airman 1st Class Erica Akamine, assigned to the 52nd Medical Operations Squadron. "I didn't realize pilots don't rely on looking out the window, but use the gauges and other controls when flying. I also saw firsthand the importance of radio communication between the plane and the tower."

The mission included delivering 25,000 pounds, or about 3,100 gallons, of JP-8 jet fuel to the E-3.

"It's always different with each mission, because of the different size fuel receptacles," said Staff Sgt. Mat Grzyb, a boom operator who has worked on a KC-135 for about eight months. "Of the 10 different airframes I've refueled, I must say that my favorite aircraft to refuel are the F-22 (Raptor) and F-117 (Nighthawk)."

The plane can deliver about 1,000 gallons of fuel per minute, carry up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, 83,000 pounds of cargo and provide air refueling to all branches of service and our allies.

"It's great to have passengers aboard so they can see up-close and personal what our mission is," said Lt. Col. Steve Fuller, a pilot  with more than 17 years flying experience and more than 6,500 flying hours. "It gives them a chance to see another mission of the Air Force."

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