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50th ARS 'Red Devils' named best in Air Force

Airmen from the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) ‘Red Devils’ pose for a photograph under the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The 50th ARS recently won the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Award, recognizing them as the best air refueling section in the Air Force. (Courtesy photograph)

Airmen from the 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) ‘Red Devils’ pose for a photograph under the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The 50th ARS recently won the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Award, recognizing them as the best air refueling section in the Air Force. (Courtesy photograph)

Millard Bolden, a Northrup Grummins and defense contractor employee, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kylie Strawser, 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) boom operator, secure a Roll-On Beyond-Line-Of-Sight Enhancement (ROBE) on a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, May 13, 2021. 50th ARS members secured the ROBE in preparation for Exercise Mobility Guardian, Air Mobility Command’s largest annual exercise in which two 50th ARS crews will participate in.

Millard Bolden, a Northrup Grummins and defense contractor employee, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kylie Strawser, 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) boom operator, secure a Roll-On Beyond-Line-Of-Sight Enhancement (ROBE) on a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, May 13, 2021. 50th ARS members secured the ROBE in preparation for Exercise Mobility Guardian, Air Mobility Command’s largest annual exercise in which two 50th ARS crews will participate in. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Fejerang)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson, F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team commander, prepares to receive fuel from a MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., KC-135 Stratotanker, April 17, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson, F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team commander, prepares to receive fuel from a MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., KC-135 Stratotanker, April 17, 2021. Gunderson, a Tampa native, rendezvoused with the KC-135 assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron in-between performances for the SUN ‘n FUN airshow in Lakeland, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan C. Grossklag)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Andres G. Velez, a 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) pilot, reads the long format checklist binder while performing a preflight check on a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., April 9, 2021 prior to a 91st ARS deployment. 
Airmen from the 50th ARS completed pre-deployment measures for deploying 91st ARS Airmen to help reduce the burden of certain preparations before the 91st flew to their deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David D. McLoney)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Andres G. Velez, a 50th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) pilot, reads the long format checklist binder while performing a preflight check on a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., April 9, 2021 prior to a 91st ARS deployment. Airmen from the 50th ARS completed pre-deployment measures for deploying 91st ARS Airmen to help reduce the burden of certain preparations before the 91st flew to their deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David D. McLoney)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla --

The 50th Air Refueling Squadron ‘Red Devils’ have been recognized as the 2020 Senior Master Sgt. Albert Evans Outstanding Air Refueling Section Award winner.

The Evans award was established in memory of Senior Master Sergeant Albert L. Evans, a pioneer in the history of Strategic Air Command's air refueling operations. The purpose of the trophy is to annually recognize, on a rotational basis, the outstanding boom operator section within the Air Force, based on the collective accomplishments and professional qualities of the assigned boom operators.

“Words cannot express how proud and impressed I am with the men and women of the 50th,” said Lt. Col. Menola Guthrie, the former 50th ARS commander. “Their ability to overcome any obstacle to include COVID-19 and come out the other end wildly successful is unprecedented.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for all lines of work across the services, but that hasn’t stopped the 50th ARS from accomplishing its mission and leading the way.

During 2020, the 50th ARS flawlessly executed 6,500 flight hours on 725 combat sorties, offloading 29 million pounds of fuel to around 3,000 U.S. and allied aircraft supporting 70 special operations forces over 210 strikes. They also led an air refueling wing in U.S. Southern Command, which supported and executed 56 missions and executed the first largest drug operation since 1989 where over $50 million of narcotics were seized.

“The 50th boom operator section was involved in multiple missions, including the Nuclear Operation Readiness Inspection in the beginning of the year,” said Master Sgt. Michael Fulton, 50th ARS superintendent. “We even had a member recognized as an outstanding performer by the [Air Mobility Command’s] Inspector General team.”

Being recognized for this award is a major accomplishment due to the 50th ARS being the youngest air refueling squadron in the Air Force. This makes it a priority for them to work diligently and show off their dedication to the aerial refueling career field.

“When the squadron stood up in 2017, we knew that we had some big shoes to fill and a reputation of greatness to uphold,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Harwood, 6th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation Division superintendent. “Senior Master Sgt. Evans had been stationed here at MacDill during his time in the Air Force, so it is extra special to bring it to MacDill for the first time.”

It’s also the first time an aerial refueling squadron located at MacDill has accomplished this achievement, as there are two active duty and one Reserve air refueling squadrons located here.

“This is my sixth air refueling squadron and I didn’t need the Evans award to tell me that it’s the best,” Guthrie said. “While deployed, we were on the leading edge of KC-135 hot pit refueling, cluster base operations and other agile combat employment initiatives which we have continued to carry onward back in garrison.”

The 50th ARS isn’t just focused on the mission on base, but also tackles overseas missions working with different units across the Air Force.

“We’ve been the lead when it comes to accelerating change and with our in-house advance instructor school, and we were able to plan multiple overseas missions integrating with units from Misawa and Lakenheath Air Bases,” said Fulton. “This ensures that we can adapt, plan and coordinate from any continent in the world.”

For the 50th ARS, accelerating change has become a regular endeavor and their hard work has not gone unrecognized.

“This award could not have been possible without the amazing work of the Airmen in the squadron,” Harwood said. “2020 threw so many huge challenges our way and they knocked it out of the park every time. I am honored to have been a part of this amazing team and I am so proud of the men and women of the 50th.”