MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
In jubilation, Team McConnell's crack aircrew team leapt from the bleachers Friday and sprinted to the stage to accept the Gen. John C. Meyer trophy as the Best Aerial Refueling Team at Air Mobility RODEO 2009
Team McConnell tied with Travis Air Force Base for one of the 16 trophies awarded at the international mobility competition. More than 2,500 people from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and allied nations participated in the week long exercise that showcases mission readiness.
During the awards ceremony, team leader Lt. Col. Tom Wood and Senior Master Sgt. John Wallman represented the 931st Air Refueling Group while Capt. Jeff Taylor, Capt. Tony Fattizzi and Master Sgt. Paul Jacobs represented the 22nd Air Refueling Wing.
During the competition, team members became discouraged after losing points on their first flight because the receiving aircraft missed the assigned rendezvous point. Under the rules, deductions applied to both teams even though McConnell was on time and in place.
"Our second sortie went much better than our first," explained Colonel Wood. "On the first sortie, the
C-17 rolled out about one-half in trail and was slow to get in for a contact. The competition gives 21 minutes to get full credit of 20 minutes on the boom. You have one minute to get on, and then stay on for 20. The first receiver got only five minutes credit of boom time.
"On the second sortie, the KC-10 was in position and got a contact on time. Captain Jeff Taylor flew an outstanding
platform and they got all of their boom time. We also did better with the receiver time, getting full credit on the second sortie."
Sergeants Wallman and Jacobs and Captain Fattizzi admitted they were stunned to be bringing home the trophy.
"We thought that first flight did us in," said Sergeant Wallman.
The team returned to McConnell at 3 p.m. Saturday to a rousing welcome by Team McConnell members and families that had been bused to the flight line. Fire trucks on each side of the runway sprayed a water arch for the plane to taxi under, in celebration of the aircrew's achievement.
Captain Taylor commented on how much the three civic leaders had added to the RODEO experience. Rael Hodgson, a longtime McConnell supporter and Golden Eagle, along with Honorary Commanders Wayne Roberts and Jay Russell flew out and back with the team but paid all their own expenses at RODEO.
"They made the tent a great place to be," Captain Taylor said. "The food and just having people there to cheer for us, somebody to be on our side, made a big difference."
Colonel Wood commented on how well the active duty and Reservists members worked together.
"It was never an us versus them attitude. We were all one team working together to do the best that we could. It was truly a great experience."