MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Everyday, KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft take off from the runways of MacDill Air Force Base to conduct training operations and provide unmatched air refueling support around the globe.
Tanker crews typically train from their home station in order to hone their skills of generating and projecting global combat capabilities.
The 6th Air Refueling Wing is taking steps to fast track its training and warfighting capabilities to ensure the 6th ARW remains ready to deter near-peer adversaries in accordance with the “Accelerate Change or Lose” directive recently published by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
Aircrews with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, maintainers with the 6th Maintenance Group and Airmen with the 6th Operations Support Squadron along with four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, are scheduled to travel to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, at the end of November to conduct an integrated training exercise with the 20th Fighter Wing.
“Having Airmen from the operations group and support teams head to Shaw is essentially our first rep at trying to do some larger Blue Force exercises in friendly air,” said Col. Ben Jonsson, 6th Air Refueling commander. “We will be performing some integrated training operations with the F-16 Fighting Falcons from Shaw to increase our abilities to refuel aircraft in high threat environments.”
According to Capt. Vincent Pellegri, 6th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing tactics, the team of MacDill Airmen will participate in the exercise to practice and demonstrate their abilities to pick up and operate from anywhere in a short amount of time with a relatively small footprint.
“These off-site trainings are important to prepare our aircrews and maintainers for agile combat employment,” said Pellegri. “We get comfortable with our local processes and resources available, so it is important to conduct these trainings so we can learn how to operate at airfields with less support and different challenges.”
In addition to increasing MacDill’s abilities to operate away from home station, the training at Shaw will also help to bolster the relationship between the 6th ARW and Shaw’s 20th FW Airmen.
“We previously conducted some pre-deployment training with aircraft and crews from the 20th Fighter Wing which went very well, and they invited us to come to Shaw for more training,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Sadler, 6th OSS noncommissioned officer in charge of wing tactics. “Working so closely together with the 20th Fighter Wing promotes cross-talk and a better understanding how our missions intersect. This mutual understanding will make it easier for us to operate together in the future.”
MacDill’s KC-135 Stratotankers have excelled as the Air Force’s premier refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. Team MacDill is focused on the future and is using this exercise at Shaw as a first step to accelerate training to keep the KC-135 at the forefront of extending global reach and global power.
“We are advancing our warfighting capabilities and training to increase our ability to refuel aircraft in contested environments,” said Jonsson. “We plan to think tactically, integrate our training and get the most out of these reps at Shaw.”