Flying Tigers celebrate 50th anniversary
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Kadena's 909th Air Refueling Squadron celebrates its 50th anniversary Jan. 18, 2013, acknowledging its past as the original 909th Air Refueling Squadron (Heavy).
Back in 1963, the "Heavy" squadron was part of the 461st Bomb Wing at Amarillo Air Force Base in Amarillo, Texas. The "Heavy" designation meant it had the capabilities to transfer combat materiel and patients internationally.
The squadron provided aeromedical care for military and civilian members, as well as patient transport across the Pacific, which remains a key mission for the unit today.
During the "last day of August in 1971, the 909th became operational with the KC-135A Stratotanker," answered Capt. Benjamin Mendel, a 909th ARS pilot, who wasn't born until 15 years later. "Almost immediately, the 909th ARS began supporting air refueling operations in North Vietnam."
Later on, the unit was redesignated as the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, which became a part of the 18th Wing on Oct. 1, 1991.
Since being a part of the 18th Wing, the 909th ARS Flying Tigers "have increased the capabilities of global reach," said Lt. Col. Christina Clausitzner, 909th ARS commander. So the wing can "fight tonight and win tomorrow!"
Today, being one of the main air refueling squadrons in PACAF doesn't deter them from being able to make sure that the "bombs, missiles and everything (remain) on target, so the other aircraft don't have to land again to refuel," explained Clausitzner.
But the credit for all the hard work goes to the 909th as a whole; including the intelligence troops, one charlie oscars, and the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
"I don't believe that any of our aircraft are under 50 years old," replied the 909th ARS commander. The entire team from the maintainers to the communications technicians, "go above and beyond getting the mission done for us, so when it's us walking out the door we know that they are setting us up for success!"
Since 1973, the Flying Tigers have refueled nearly every kind of U.S. military aircraft operating over the Western Pacific Ocean.
Over the years, the unit has received different accolades and was named the Pacific Air Forces' "lead force" for all contingencies needing air refueling for the U.S. and allied aircraft.
As the squadron motto says the 909th ARS is "Always There" whenever and wherever they are needed.