Airmen Support Refueling Missions From Above


On June 27, 1923, two Army Air Service Airco DH-4B biplanes completed the first midair refueling. Afterward, aerial refueling skyrocketed as new technologies and capabilities developed.

Airmen unload cargo from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker.
Airmen unload cargo from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 10, 2017. These forward-deployed forces demonstrate continuing U.S. commitment to stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis
Airmen unload cargo from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker.
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Airmen unload cargo from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 10, 2017. These forward-deployed forces demonstrate continuing U.S. commitment to stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis

Today, the 506th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron based here leads the aerial refueling mission in the Indo-Pacific region, the largest area of responsibility in the Defense Department.

“Nothing could happen without tanker support in this region,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Olson, 506th EARS commander. “While deployed to Guam, our airmen are flying sorties supporting refueling and airlift missions like Indo-Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence and theater security packages.”

Pivotal Mission

The 506th EARS is comprised of multiple Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and active-duty KC-135 Stratotanker units. Each unit serves about a three-month rotation, providing a pivotal link in consecutive inflight refueling and airlift operations.

“I am proud to be representing the 126th Air Refueling Wing out of Scott Air Force Base, Illinois,” Olson said. “We bring constant and reliable aerial refueling, force extension, airlift capabilities and emergency medical evacuation to the table every day. We support any and every higher headquarters mission in this region.”

The tanker units bring years of experience in the U.S. Central Command area of operations to the mission here. The KC-135 units are no stranger to this mission set; the hardy aircraft was originally designed to refuel strategic bombers and now fits perfectly into the continuous bomber presence mission in the Indo-Pacific theater.

KC-135 tanker aircraft prepares to take off.
An Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to depart from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 2, 2018. The Stratotanker force provides the core aerial refueling capability for the Air Force. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis
KC-135 tanker aircraft prepares to take off.
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An Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepares to depart from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 2, 2018. The Stratotanker force provides the core aerial refueling capability for the Air Force. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis

“Guard and Reserve units have a presence in multiple missions around the world. Today we are seeing a substantial increase in tasking and deployment rates of Guard and Reserve,” Olson said. “These increased requirements can be a unique challenge on drill status guardsman and reservists as they balance their military careers with their civilian employers.”

Total Force Operation

After arriving in Guam, airmen, regardless of their status, are expected to take over operations immediately. This includes flight operations, maintenance, logistics, medical support, communications and all other support operations of the 506th EARS.

This is a total force operation that works closely with the host unit, the 36th Wing, Olson said.

“Refueling the fight is one of the greatest privileges,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Nathan Moore, 506th EARS chief boom operator. “This is the best enlisted job in the Air Force, in my opinion. We play a vital role in every mission and offer our capabilities as force multipliers all over the world.”