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Total force tanker team sharpens skills at Red Flag

by Capt. Teresa L. Sullivan
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

3/14/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Aerial refuelers sharpen their skills through joint, allied and total force integration during Red Flag 12-3.

"The teamwork of active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve units has been outstanding," said Master Sgt. Randy Bishop, 91st Air Refueling Squadron chief boom operator out of MacDill AFB, Fla. "Total Force Integration is what makes tanker success at Red Flag possible."

Tanker operators are pushing the limits while working more closely with Guard and Reserve units by inter-flying six KC-135 aircraft and crews as a team. They're responsible for refueling 48 aircraft, which consume 260,000 pounds of fuel per day during eight sorties over the Air Force's premier Nevada Test and Training Range.

During the exercise tanker operators strive to better accommodate and coordinate with a variety of receivers, to include Air Force and Marine aircraft from across the U.S., while working with Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and crews.

Exercises like Red Flag are designed to train the force for current and future conflicts.

"Red Flag helps me think on my feet and be prepared for the unexpected, in a rapidly changing environment," said Capt. Duc Ho, 91st ARS flight commander, who has deployed nine times to Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and other areas of Southwest Asia. "We're learning the receiver's mission and the complex, fluid environment that we're going to be operating in for future wars."

The tanker team credits their maintainers for keeping the aging tanker fleet operational during Red Flag.

"Maintenance does a great job keeping these 50-year-old jets in the air," said Ho, who is participating in his second Red Flag. "We couldn't launch without our incredible maintainers."

The tanker team is honing their skills in the air and on the ground, while being mindful of their environmental impact and fuel savings.

"Our primary goal is to support our receivers, but we fly high to save gas," said Capt. Ho. "We use a lot of ground power stations, minimize taxi time and when we're not needed we minimize our air time in an effort to save fuel. We take fuel saving very seriously, but of course we balance that with the needs of the receiver."

The 414th Combat Training Squadron is responsible for executing Red Flag and this exercise is just one of a series of advanced training programs administered at Nellis and on the Nevada Test and Training Range by organizations assigned to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

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