One Bird, Two Stones
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Republic of Korea Air Force F-15 Eagles and Airmen of the 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron simultaneously trained for separate missions over the Pacific Ocean last week thanks to an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to Kadena Air Base.
The 909th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 provided fuel for Korean fighter pilot training sorties as well as a real-world simulated working environment for medical aircrews.
“By conducting multiple missions at the same time, it maximizes the utilization of limited resources,” said Lt. Col. Tom Wilson, 18th AES chief nurse.
[ROKAF] F-15s called upon the refueling support from the 909th ARS to help them improve nighttime flying skills.
“The South Korean fighters are looking for training for a long- distance flight using tanker support to get them ready and prepared for that journey,” said Maj. Jacob Johnson, 909th ARS instructor pilot. “This builds their confidence and proves their capability to do that.”
For additional training intensity, 909th ARS pilots flew with ROKAF F-15s in the middle of the night, which challenged fighter pilots to safely perform in-flight refueling in an austere environment.
“When you do a night time refueling it’s more difficult to see the other aircraft, it’s harder to see the fuel receptacle, and it plays a little trick on depth perception,” said Senior Airman Charlton Hampton, 909th ARS boom operator.
ROKAF pilots were not the only warfighters training in the dark. Medical aircrews from the 18th AES performed a flight check of various patient care procedures inside the cargo cabin of the Stratotanker.
“It’s a normal mission where we fly with the 909th ARS and perform training in medical emergencies, cardiac emergencies, smoke and fumes in the cargo area, and rapid decompressions where we’ll put on an oxygen apparatus and tend to our patients,” said Capt. Matthew Huard, 18th AES flight nurse.
Working space for personnel can become cramped in the long and narrow cargo hold of the KC-135, but 18th AES aircrews utilize every inch of the compartment and adapt to the needs of the mission.
“On this aircraft we could have nine patients in different configurations, and if we have to do without patient litters we can secure them on the floor,” said Huard. “The KC-135 wasn’t originally designed for patient care but we’ve made it happen, and it’s a big breakthrough, especially for the United States Air Force.”
Since the KC-135 serves as both a refueling platform and a critical patient transport, Airmen of the 909th ARS and 18th AES stay alert for any possible orders to support real world operations.
“We have the capacity to respond quickly, so they just give the word and we go on crew rest and then get ready for launch as soon as they need us,” said Johnson.
Huard added, “If patients need to fly out to the next level of care, we can absolutely do that for them and get them there in a very short time.”
Between flying air refueling operations for U.S. allies over the seas and transporting patients to hospitals around the globe, the 909th ARS and the 18th AES enhance Kadena Air Base’s role as the Keystone of the Pacific.
“This training makes sure every person involved in this process is able to work together and communicate, but it also sends a message to our allies, as well as our adversaries, that we can accomplish our mission anytime, anywhere,” said Johnson.