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Refuelers Return from Supporting Operation New Dawn
1st Lt. Ryan Chamberlin, left, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron co-pilot, Capt. Justin Davis, middle, 340th EARS pilot, and Airman 1st Class Roslyn Longmire, right, 340th EARS boom operator, board a KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft prior to performing a refueling mission over Iraq Nov. 5, 2011. KC-135 Stratotankers provided approximately 200,000 pounds of fuel each day to aerial assets in Iraq. Davis is stationed at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and is from Roseburg, Ore. Chamberlin is stationed at McConnell AFB, Kan., and is from Hopkinton, N.H. Longmire is stationed at McConnell AFB, Kan., and is from Hampton Roads, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
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Refuelers Return from Supporting Operation New Dawn

Posted 12/9/2011   Updated 12/12/2011 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Eric Summers Jr.
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/9/2011 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Airmen from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, Detachment 4, recently returned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing following a forward deployment in Iraq supporting Operation New Dawn.

The squadron's mission enabled the U.S. military to safely transition personnel and equipment out of Iraq in honor of the 2008 security agreement.

"The unit's mission was to provide proactive, flexible and dependable air refueling to meet the Combined Forces Air Component Commander objectives," said Lt. Col. Paul Skipworth, commander of the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, deployed from the Pentagon.

The KC-135 Stratotankers were used to refuel aircraft over Iraq -- to include F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-18 Hornets and Super Hornets, EA-18 Growlers, and AC-130 gunships that provided top cover for service members on the ground.

The purpose of the forward deployment was to increase mission effectiveness, said Skipworth.

"The KC-135 uses the same fuel tanks to refuel aircraft as it does to feed its own engines. By reducing our flight time to the air refueling areas, we burned less of that gas ourselves. That allows us to provide more fuel to receivers or to stay on station longer, increasing our availability to the receivers," said the colonel, a native of Edgewood, Wash.

The positioning of the squadron in Iraq also postured crews to meet mission objectives more quickly and effectively, according to Senior Airman Rob White, 340th EARS Det. 4 chief boom operator, deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

"Because we were able to keep the aircraft in the air longer, troops on the ground had aerial support available to them while they performed their operations," the Raleigh, N.C., native said.

In less than a year the detachment flew more than 800 missions, offloaded more than 40 million pounds of fuel to more than 6,500 aircraft, and flew nearly 5,000 hours.

Tech. Sgt. William Nelson, 340th EARS Det. 4 computer technician, a native of Tampa, Fla., deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., said that aircraft parts often had to be delivered from the parent unit to complete repairs, and if an aircraft required extensive work, it would have to be flown back to the parent unit.

Before the team could transfer the mission, thousands of pounds of equipment had to be accounted for and palletized. Some of the equipment was being used on the final day.

"If we did not plan this out weeks in advance, leaving would have been a disaster," said White. "The logistical aspect of closing shop began rearing its head with 17,000 pounds of cargo that needed to be planned, prepared and loaded onto aircraft to exit the country."

Although the base began a rapid drawdown, the morale of the Airmen and unity of the team they built remained strong.

"I do think I can speak on everyone's behalf when I say that what lacked in amenities was more than made up for in morale," said White. "Operations and maintenance personnel truly worked together, almost literally elbow-to-elbow, as a cohesive team and accomplished great things in this forward operating location, and it was rather enjoyable."

Nelson agrees that the deployment was a highlight of his career.

"Honestly I would have to say it was the best deployment I had ever been on," he acclaimed. "Every time a tanker landed [we saw] guys run out and get on that same aircraft ready to fly in two to three hours. [It] was a huge sense of 'we are making a difference in Iraq.'"

The unit's return from Iraq coincides with the U.S. - Iraq Security Agreement to remove U.S. forces from Iraq by Dec. 31.

"As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year --after nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," said President Obama, during an Oct. 21 press briefing at the White House.

"The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops -- that is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end.''

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