McConnell Reservists pay tribute to people of the Southwind

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
A McConnell ‘tanker again features the official seal of the Kaw (Kanza) Nation, as the official seal was revealed on the nose of aircraft No. 58-0018 during a ceremony at Hangar 1107 Aug. 18, 2017.

More than ten members of the 3,500 Kaw Nation attended the ceremony, including Ms. Jacque Secondine Hensley, the current Kaw Chair. Retired Col. Vik C. Malling, the first commander of the 931st Air Refueling Wing at McConnell, was also present.

The 931 ARW’s roots with the Kaw stretch back to the wing’s introduction at McConnell as the 931st Air Refueling Group in 1995, as the first associate tanker unit in the Air Force.

Malling, the wing’s first commander, sought to affiliate the unit with the distinct heritage of the local area. The leaders of the Kaw Nation accepted an offer to honor their tribal heritage through the Air Force Reserve.

Malling’s presence was significant to the ceremony as he was integral to the Kaw’s original representation on the aircraft. He was also present during the original KC-135 Kaw Nation Nose Art unveiling, Aug. 9, 1997. This was his final act as commander of the then 931st Air Refueling Group.

After Malling, Col. Mark S. Larson took the stage in his final act as commander of the 931 ARW. Larson assumed command of the wing in 2012, and since arriving, worked to reestablish the connection between the 931 ARW and the Kaw Nation. According to Larson, the unveiling ceremony was the culmination of years of work by the 931 ARW to strengthen the historical and cultural connection with the Kaw Nation.

As Larson took the stage, he thanked the members of the 22nd Maintenance and 931st Maintenance Groups, for their “Herculean” effort in restoring the aircraft bearing the seal, as it had just returned recently from six-month deployment. Larson also recognized the members of the Kaw Nation in attendance.

“For over 20 years, the men and women of the 931st have identified themselves as Kanza Warriors, the people of the Southwind, and we use the call sign Kanza everywhere we go,” said Larson. “I’m proud of our link to the Kanza Nation because they are survivors who have come back from the brink of almost extinction to become a great people.”

Larson then spoke of the importance of eagles as messengers in Native American culture, and pointed to the aircraft.

“Though No. 58-0018 it is not an eagle, it will routinely fly over the skies of your sovereign nation and your old native homelands,” he said. “It will be messenger for the Kaw people around the world as it travels to the desert, and all parts of the world. It will be a messenger for the Kaw People and the state of Kansas, and we will continue to proudly associate our 931st Kanza Warriors with its people.”

Hensley then took the stage, carrying traditional cloth wrap in one hands.

“We are so proud this is being renewed,” said Hensley. “This crowd is indicative of your leadership, and one of the things we would like to do for you, and the 931st, is to honor you.”

Hensley then proceeded to wrap the cloth over Larson’s service dress.
As the “Southwind” filtered through the hangar, the ceremony concluded with Larson and Hensley revealing the Nose Art on the aircraft. Members of the Kaw Nation were then given a static tour of No. 58-0018.