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50th ARS completes first training flight

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ricardo Lopez, the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) commander, reviews the aircraft documentation before taking off for the first 50th ARS’s training mission at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 16, 2018. The 50th ARS brought with it eight new aircraft to MacDill, expanding Air Mobility Command’s global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ricardo Lopez, the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) commander, reviews the aircraft documentation before taking off for the first 50th ARS’s training mission at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 16, 2018. The 50th ARS brought with it eight new aircraft to MacDill, expanding Air Mobility Command’s global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jamar Campbell, a boom operator assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) prepares to make contact with an F-15 Eagle aircraft during the first 50th ARS training mission at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 16, 2018. As the 50th ARS settles in, their goal is to have one flight per day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jamar Campbell, a boom operator assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) prepares to make contact with an F-15 Eagle aircraft during the first 50th ARS training mission at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 16, 2018. As the 50th ARS settles in, their goal is to have one flight per day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Three months after being relocated and re-designated, the 50th Air Refueling Squadron completed its first refueling mission aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft here Jan. 16, 2018.

“It takes a lot of effort to generate a flight because there are a lot of moving parts, but we finally got it done,” said Lt. Col. Ricardo Lopez, 50th ARS. “We were finally able to fly the first true 50th Air Refueling Squadron training mission two months ahead of schedule.”

Although this was the first true training flight for the Red Devils, it was by no means their first mission.

“We’ve been operating with our sister squadron, the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, but this is the first one that was ours,” said Master Sgt. Justin Poteet, the 50th ARS superintendent. “It was definitely a big step to have our own mission numbers and operate as an independent squadron.”

With the call sign of DREW 50, the mission consisted of providing 16 thousand pounds of fuel to three F-15 Eagle aircrafts, along with some tactical training.

“Drew was the old name for Tampa International Airport, which is where the original 50th Airlift Squadron was born back in 1942, so we figured it was fitting,” said Lopez. “It was really cool to bring that name back to Tampa because of its significance.”

Not only was special care taken to decide the new call sign, but also in deciding the crew to fly this historical mission.

“I wanted the most senior pilot with the most junior co-pilot and the most senior boom operator with the most junior boom operator,” said Lopez. “It’s our way of passing the legacy and the mission to the younger generation and hopefully, they embrace it and take off running with it.”

This symbolic passing of the torch is significant since the Red Devils are one of the most decorated units in the Air Force and their history of excellence will continue where it once began.

“One of my goals is to bring the legacy set for 70 plus years to MacDill,” said Lopez. “Tampa is home to the 50th and after several decades of accomplishments, we are back.”

Now that the 50th has their first flight under their belts, it is time to look into what the future holds for the “Fightin’ Five-O.”

“From now on, you’re going to see more DREW flights every single week,” said Lopez. “We’re going to continue ramping up with the goal of having one flight per day in the very near future. That’s what we do in the 50th, that’s what we do in Team MacDill – provide tanker forces to the fight.”

The 50th Airlift Squadron relocated from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, and was redesignated as the 50th Air Refueling Squadron in October 2017.  As part of the redesignation, the squadron swapped airframes from the C-130 Hercules to the KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft.