McConnell Citizen Airmen refuel Thunderbirds

  • Published
  • By 931st Air Refeuling Wing Public Affairs Office
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing

When spectators line up at the next McConnell Open House and Air Show to watch the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, their journey to McConnell will probably not be the dazzling ‘stunt’ they’ll be asking about.

What they don’t know is that McConnell’s KC-135 Stratotanker aircrews are regularly part of the team’s worldwide journey. At any given time during their performance season, Team McConnell’s active duty and Reserve aircrews regularly perform aerial refueling for the team during performance season. 

This past week was no exception. On Nov. 2, four Reservists from the 18th and 924th Air Refueling Squadrons performed multiple refuelings to help the team make a non-stop, long-distance flight to their next show at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

For Staff Sgt. Patrick Bartosavage, 924 ARS boom operator, this was his first time refueling not only the Thunderbirds, but also F-16 Fighting Falcons.  Bartosavage became a boom operator a few months ago and was excited about the opportunity.

“[It can be a challenge] because they come in fast, but the Thunderbird pilots are really precise so it also makes it really easy,” he said.

Master Sgt. James Yokom, 18 ARS boom operator, who has been doing the job for more than 20 years, agreed.

“The F-16 is one of the easiest of the fighters to refuel, but they also move fast, so it is something you really have to pay attention to.”

During the more than four-hour flight, the KC-135 aircrew offloaded more than 4, 477 gallons of fuel and made 12 successful contacts with the jets.

The McConnel Open House and Air Show, “Frontiers in Flight,” is scheduled for Sept. 8-9, 2018.  This will be the first air show at McConnell in six years.  The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are the main guests, but more details are to come, so keep an eye out for future updates as the installation prepares for the show. For more information about the Thunderbirds, visit