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Perfect practice makes perfect

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariette Adams
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
The U.S. Air Force constantly strives for "Excellence in All We Do," and training is essential to that end.

One of the 6 Air Mobility Wing's primary missions is aerial refueling, a capability that requires great precision.

"The mission can be anything; we talk about full-spectrum operations and readiness across the Air Force, and it all begins with the building blocks that our Airmen represent," said Col. Daniel Tulley, 6th AMW commander. "Every Airman has to make sure they are fit, healthy, trained, and proficient when they are called upon by the nation."

Earlier this month, Tulley, along with a boom operator and two pilots, refueled two F-22 Raptors and accomplished training for the pilots.

"When we train, like today, we will go out and meet up with a jet," said Capt. Kenneth Burch, 91st Air Refueling Squadron pilot. "Although it is an easy mission for me because I have performed the task many times, it is a hard thing to do. Think about it- two jets meet at the same time and place and then fly so close in formation that we touch to give gas and then separate safely."

Burch goes on to comment, "It's one of the things that make America great. Not every country can do that, and it goes to show that we are the number one Air Force in the world."

With a precise mission comes stress and expectations.

"It can be stressful depending on how adequate your receiver is, weather conditions and turbulence," explained Senior Airman Evan Simpson, 91st ARS boom operator. "We are held to a high standard.  We must be able to diagnose if there is a malfunction right away and know how to react right on the spot if something goes wrong on the aircraft."

With that being said, precision does not happen overnight. Airmen at MacDill spend months and years perfecting successful fuel offloads.

"Perfect practice makes perfect," explained Burch. "There are many ways to make a contact that is sloppy, but we don't practice sloppy, we don't accept sloppy."

The wing's aerial refueling capability helps the U.S. to project might and mercy anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. Aerial refueling is a critical to rapid global mobility, an Air Force distinctive capability. It provides the Air Force time-saving capabilities that allows for global crisis or contingency response, such as allowing coalition aircraft to keep 24/7 presence over Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-controlled and contested areas.

"There have been specific occasions where we go down range and fly with different crews from different bases," said Burch. "The training and standardization in our training allows me to fly with someone from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, without loss in continuity."

Overall, it is because of their excellent training that Airmen are able to communicate and achieve top-level performances with service members from other bases. With perfect practice and the mindset of "Excellence in All We Do," MacDill Airmen increase their readiness to support the war fighter.