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Clergy get 'lifted' by 931st ARG

An Arkansas Air National Guard F-16C from the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Ark., prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker. The aircraft was crewed by members of the 931st Air Refueling Group’s 18th Air Refueling Squadron.

An Arkansas Air National Guard F-16C from the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Ark., prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker. The aircraft was crewed by members of the 931st Air Refueling Group’s 18th Air Refueling Squadron.

McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. -- What circumstances would dictate having 21 clergy aboard a routine refueling mission in the skies over the Great Plains? 

A pretty serious In Flight Emergency? A superstitious crew? A ‘Clergy Lift’? 

The latter would be correct. On April 8, clergy from local places of worship flew on a mission aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker with the 931st Air Refueling Group. 

“The response was outstanding. I have organized 15 clergy events in my career and this has been the most enthusiastic response I have experienced,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Fulton, 931st ARG chaplain. 

The day started off bright and early with the visitors showing up at 7:30 a.m. for a group mission brief. 

Col. Hurdle, 931st ARG Commander, briefed everyone on the 931st ARG mission, people and the Air Force Reserve way of life. 

Immediately following the mission brief it was time to ‘load up’. 

The clergy, along with Chaplain Fulton boarded the bus and headed out to the flightline.
The group was split into two and after pausing for a photo by one of the jets, it was time to take to the sky. 

The two tankers taxied out onto the runway and made their way into the air.
After around 30 minutes of flying, the boom operator, Staff Sgt. Clay Dotson of the 18th Air Refueling Squadron came to let everyone know that it was almost time for the refueling. 

“About 10 minutes (until the jets arrive),” said Sergeant Dotson. 

Then it was time for the clergy to witness some air-to-air refueling.
As Sergeant Dotson refueled the F-16/Cs from the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Ark. the clergy took turns rotating into the boom pod for a view like no other.
“The view was a gift from God that I will always cherish,” said Associate Pastor Doug Holt of Metro East Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan. 

“It (the view) was just plain awesome!” said Pastor Rodger Thompson of Northwest Christian Church in Wichita, Kan. 

The feeling was mutual throughout the group with everyone describing the event as ‘awesome’ at least once during the journey. 

The crew seemed to enjoy the event just as much as the visitors.
“I enjoy being part of civilians seeing the Air Force mission, especially religious leaders from the local community who support us (Airmen) on the outside,” said Sergeant Dotson. “During the refueling, I was grinning from ear-to-ear because I got the chance to show off my skills to them.” 

After returning to the base, the clergy were given the opportunity to have lunch at the base dining facility. 

The day seemed a success from both the military and civilian side of things.
“This was a great opportunity for me,” said Pastor Holt, “I want to do it again.”
“All were pleased with the outcome of the day, the planes flew, the weather was perfect and the clergy experienced a slice of life in the military,” said Chaplain Fulton.