McConnell Reservists perform first tasked KC-46A AE mission to Pacific

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing

Citizen Reserve Airmen from the 931st Air Refueling Wing recently expanded Pacific Air Force (PACAF) capabilities by piloting a KC-46A Pegasus with Airmen from the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (AES). This was the first tasked KC-46 dedicated to solely execute Aeromedical Evacuation in the Pacific.

The McConnel Reserve aircrew included pilots Lt. Col. Joe Oline, 905th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS), Capt. Alec Maloy, 924th ARS, and 1st Lt. Christian Skytte, 924th ARS. The boom operators included Tech. Sgt. Levi Helman, 905th ARS, Senior Airman Heath Overmeyer, 905th ARS, and Senior Airman Morgan Anderson 924th ARS.

During the journey the crew traveled from the 15th AES home base in Hawaii, to Guam, then to Japan and back, airlifting seven patients not including their family members.

This was Anderson’s first AE mission since becoming a boom operator more than years ago. For Anderson, the mission proved challenging, but she also says it was incredibly rewarding.

“As a boom operator, I mostly work with people in the air, so it was rewarding to see who we were helping and it does give you a drive at the end of the day. It does make me think about my career in a different way. We don’t just do air refueling, we do AE missions and cargo loads.

“This was the 15 AES’ first time setting up on a KC-46, so there was a learning curve for both of us,” said Anderson.

For example, in the cargo hold, they must remove the flooring that is normally there because the high-foot traffic of quickly setting up a mobile hospital is not conducive to the rolling balls on the floor that make cargo loading easier. Anderson said they had to remove and replace the flooring in the cargo hold at least four times to aid the AE crew.

Utilizing the newest aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory presented its challenges but fortunately the AE team was well acquainted with setting up on multiple aircraft while performing under intense pressure.

When the crew were on their way back to home station, however, they received a last-minute call to return to GUAM and help with a last-minute mission, transporting a mother who had given birth to an infant seven weeks early to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit in Hawaii.

“The trip to pick up a day-old infant was a last-minute addition to the AE mission,” said Anderson. “Our crew was in Japan on our way back to Hawaii when they received the call to go back to Guam to help transport a premature infant and its mother.”

Despite being told by the medical crew in Japan about the challenges of transporting the infant, the crew was able to successfully transport them and their mother to a hospital in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It was very exciting and rewarding to perform this mission,” said Oline. “To have my job do something that really helps people--it was really cool.”

All in all, the crew performed more than 40 hours of AE training, while assisting the 15 AES in their continuing familiarization with the KC-46.