MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Team McConnell aircrews stayed one step ahead of the inclement weather this season and evacuated a total of 8 KC-135 Stratotankers and 3 KC-46 Pegasuses in less than six hours early last month.
The order to evacuate the aircraft was given at 9 a.m. By 2 p.m. that same day, all the aircraft had been successfully transferred.
The KC-135s went to Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., and March Air Reserve Base, Calif. Though this isn’t the first time Team McConnell has evacuated their aircraft to prevent damage, according to Senior Master Sgt. James Guldjord, 18th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, it was the first time the process was nearly seamless.
“I call this a big win and a testament to our Airmen’s ingenuity and flexibility,” said Guldjord. “This was a total force effort. We [the 18th ARS and 924th Air Refueling Squadron] provided three KC-135 crews and two KC-46 crews.”
To accomplish this the 18 ARS and 924 ARS utilized two newly created Supplementary Aircrew Production Plan boom operators to pull off the KC-46 evacuation. These aircrew members were trained at McConnell specifically for weather evacuations and this validated their training and the need for the program here.
The aircrews on the evacuated aircraft also performed air refueling in route back to McConnell. The KC-135s even flew a refueling mission on the way back from Grand Forks and March., and the three KC-46s flew every day they were at Travis.
“This year has had a higher than normal amount of severe weather and we’ve been lucky to avoid the fate of Tyndall, Offutt, and Wright Patterson AFB,” said Guldjord. “Utilizing the total force to evacuate aircraft will blunt the impact of a severe weather event to our equipment, and it is a good way to drive down risk.”
The teamwork and quick actions of Team McConnell Airmen, and the assistance of other bases, successfully kept aircraft out of harm's way. Col. Kevin Rainey, 931st Operations Group commander, echoed Guldjord’s enthusiasm for weathering future aircraft evacuations.
"Moving 8 KC-135s and 3 KC-46s crews in under six hours was a true testament to the hard working spirit of Reserve Airmen, our training and the rapid global mobility of the United States Air Force,” said Rainey.