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Manas KC-135s top off receivers, local fuel record

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Adriane Craig
  • 376th AEF
5/28/2008 - MANAS AB, KYRGYZSTAN -- As Manas Air Base KC-135 Stratotankers topped off their final refueling sortie May 24, they also topped a local single-day offload fuel record.

The 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron passed 804,800 pounds of fuel to 32 receivers on Saturday. The fuel directly supported 16 "show of force" missions as coalition aircraft provided top cover over the skies of Afghanistan.

Crews on twelve missions were in the air that day a total 64.8 total combat hours. The record bested the previous offload mark of 722,000 pounds set Aug. 13, 2007.

"This impressive offload accounted for 55 percent of all the air refueling support in Afghanistan that day," said Lt. Col. Wayne Cooper, 22nd EARS commander.

As the only northern approach base into Afghanistan, Manas AB is ideally suited for supporting on-going operations for the International Security Assistance Force there. The Kyrgyzstan base is also the only deployed U.S. tanker wing solely dedicated to the mission in Afghanistan.

The base is able to do perform that work in the air because of support personnel on the ground.

Fuel technicians with the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron pumped 400,000 gallons into those KC-135s on the ramp, ensuring the aircraft were gassed up and ready to go when it was mission time.

Chief Master Sgt. Paul Hamel, Manas Fuels Chief for the 376th ELRS, said the mission-focused crews rose to the occasion, keeping up with the fast-pace of the ops that day, despite the fact that most had just rotated in on their deployment.

"It was truly a remarkable day watching the highly motivated POL troops - most with only three days in country - accomplish a feat such as this," said Chief Hamel.

The 22-year veteran said it was an understatement to say that they "hit the ground running."

"This team never missed a beat despite jet-lag, unfamiliar climate conditions and several vehicle breakdowns."

Despite normal challenges of doing business in the deployed environment it was business as usual.

"[It] was a very typical day in the AOR...the coalition team working together to get the mission done, said Capt. Jeffery Ballenski, an aircraft commander who was part of the flying schedule that day. "We had great support from our maintainers to get the jet in the air and our mission was coordinated by Coalition controllers in Afghanistan."

For him the significance was about the service they provide in the overall war effort, a thought that resonated more clearly this weekend.

"It's a privilege to play a small part in this important fight, especially during Memorial Day weekend."