MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
The 931st Air Refueling Group stood up at McConnell AFB Jan. 1, 1995. Five months later, the Group’s first mission, the refueling of the “Spirit of Kansas,” a B-2 bomber, was complete.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Don Askren was a boom operator with the 18th Air Refueling Squadron on the historic first flight in June 1995.
“I had previously been flying KC-10s in North Carolina when I got the call [the 931st] needed boom operators,” he said. “It was about a month earlier than I was supposed to start with the unit, but I was in the car the next day to head down.”
Even then, Askren, who had already logged 6,500 flying hours before this, said he knew the flight was a big deal even at the time.
“I felt it was important for the Reserve to show that we were professional and that we could do it.”
Now a Wing, 931st members have deployed all over the world and been a major force in defending the United States. This past year alone, the Wing accumulated more than 900 deployed man-days in support of Overseas Contingency Operations.
Chief Master Sgt. John Wallman, 924th Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was part of the Group’s first deployment in 1999.
“I remember our first deployment was as the first Reserve KC-135 unit to be activated and deployed for Operations Allied Force and Northern Watch,” he said. “We presidentially activated 1600 on Friday afternoon before a UTA and we deployed Sunday afternoon.”
In addition to the personnel of the then 931 ARG, Wallman said he felt compelled to join the 931s in its infancy because of the challenge.
“I felt like it was the chance to build a Reserve KC-135 flying squadron from the ground up and how often do you get to do that?”
Twenty-five years later, the air refueling mission hasn’t slowed down. In addition to being selected as the first Reserve unit to fly and maintain the incoming KC-46 Pegasus tanker which it acquired in January 2019.
Col. Phil Heseltine, 931 ARW commander, also spoke of the importance of the Wing’s heritage, and where he sees it going in the future.
"Our Airmen have travelled all over the world and played a major role in defending the United States," he said. "In the air and on the ground, the 931st team has proven it’s a small unit that offers a big value to the Air Force and the American people.”
Col. Eric Vitosh, 931 ARW vice commander and acting commander from August 2017 to December 2018, agreed.
“Our unit truly has some of the best and brightest Airmen and I am honored to serve along with them,” said Col. Eric Vitosh, 931st Air Refueling Wing vice commander.