117th Air Refueling Wing Performs Mission in England

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Around 90 airmen from the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala. traveled to England for two weeks in August to maintain currencies and training.

Airmen from the 117th Operations Group, Maintenance Group, Mission Support Group, and the 99th Air Refueling Squadron trained alongside active duty members from the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England and the 100th Air Refueling Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.

The most important aspect of this mission involved the KC-135R Stratotankers from the 117 ARW being used to support RAF Mildenhall's overall mission.

"The KC-135's at Mildenhall were overly tasked, recently, with higher priority missions," said Senior Master Sgt. Trevor Baker, Airfield Manager of the 117th Operations Group. "So we came over to help them and we are flying two missions per day refueling F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath."

U.S. Air Force Captain David Kim, 99 ARS Flight Commander, stationed at the 117 ARW, said these missions allowed him and the aircrew to practice takeoffs and landings as well as refueling multiple fighter aircraft.

"It's great for the pilots, it's great for the boom operators, and it's great for everyone back home who came over to see exactly what they are supporting," said Kim.

For a lot of airmen, this was their first deployment overseas and the opportunity to work with active duty members. It brought a unique perspective that they'll keep with them as they return home.

"It's very interesting to see how the different groups operate over here," said Senior Airman Madeline Puckett, 117th Operations Group Intelligence Analyst. "I am always in the Intel building back home, but this deployment has allowed me to gain a lot more respect for the other jobs on our base and what they mean to the overall mission."

The 117th Maintenance Group also showed how capable they are of keeping the tankers operational. Out of more than 12 refueling missions flown over England, only a few minor mechanical issues were reported. This aspect allowed the mission to be successful and the feedback was exceptional.

"It's a really great feeling to hear from the fighters that we are working with," said Kim. "In the Central Command Center, you give your gas and you go home, but here we are able to get on the phone with the fighter pilots after the mission and hear that our work is appreciated."