By Maj. Jonathan Russell, 117 ARW Director of Inspections, 117th Air Refueling Wing
/ Published May 07, 2020
A KC-135R Stratotanker from the 117th Air Refueling Wing, Sumpter Smith JNGB, Birmingham, Alabama refuels an F-16 Falcon from the 187th Fighter Wing, Montgomery, Alabama during Operation American Resolve May 5, 2020. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Jonathan Russell)
A KC-135R Stratotanker from the 117th Air Refueling Wing flies over UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., May 5, 2020. The flyover was to show appreciation of healthcare worker's efforts to fight COVID-19 in the state. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Wesley Jones)
A KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft from the 117th Air Refueling Wing flew over several hospitals around Alabama on Tuesday.
This mission was a part of the nationwide Air Force Salutes Flyover under Operation American Resolve.
The purpose of this flyover was to show appreciation to the heroes in Alabama who are at the front line battling COVID-19. This includes the medical workers, first responders and everyone else working to help the communities. It was part of a normal training mission and demonstrated the continued readiness of the 117 ARW during the pandemic. The flyover was also intended to lift morale due to the severe health and economic impacts from the virus.
The 117th Air Refueling Wing Commander, Col. Scott Grant, and staff met with the Birmingham Mayor, Randall Woodfin, and city leaders to view the flyover downtown.
“All of our local hospitals here in Birmingham and the region have gone above and beyond the call of duty in supporting those who have tested positive for COVID-19, said Woodfin. “For the 117th to take a pause to pay respect, salute and show love to our doctors, our nurses and everyone else in the medical profession, thank you!”
The crew aboard the KC-135 took off around 11 a.m. from the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. About 20 minutes later, high above Alabama, the boom operators in-flight refueled multiple F-16 Falcons from the 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery. The crew proceeded to Cullman for the first flyover after the fighter jets were refueled. A few minutes later they flew over Huntsville Hospital, but it was not visible due to the low clouds in the area. The crew proceeded south and flew over several hospitals around Birmingham. The pilots did multiple practice approaches with landings for training at Birmingham and returned to the base around 3 p.m.
Jay Robinson, a local 10th grader from Mountain Brook High School, is an avid airplane enthusiast and was able to see the flyover. Robinson also volunteers at the Southern Museum of Flight and is planning on a career in aviation.
“I think it’s really cool that they are doing this for the hospital workers,” said Robinson. “It’s to show our appreciation for all they are doing, and they deserve to be recognized.”
The 117 ARW has been operating under different procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Airmen are following CDC and DOD guidance to limit the spread of the disease. A majority of the Airmen are teleworking with only a few working from the base.
“I can’t tell how proud I am of our medical workers here in Birmingham and my Med Group that is here on my base doing some things they have never had to do before,” said Grant. “They are keeping us safe and keeping the mission rolling forward…How we do things, is very different, what we do is not different at all. We are still on point and providing the services the American taxpayer and the people of Alabama depend on every day. We are protecting our people and we are protecting our mission.”