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MacDill fuels force en route to Swift Response 18

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida forward deployed to Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire to provide in-flight refueling in support of Swift Response 18, June 6, 2018.

Four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and four C-17s from the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, carrying more than 600 U.S. Army paratroopers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, headed to Eastern Europe to strengthen the interoperability of the U.S. Global Response force with both Allied and partner forces.

Capt. Craig Wojtkiewicz, assigned to the 50th Air Refueling Squadron, piloted his KC-135 to build a critical air bridge over the Atlantic Ocean for a 437th AW C-17 en route to its drop zone. Team MacDill pilots and crews maintain constant readiness to refuel U.S. and Allied forces into any corner of the globe.

The pressure was on for Wojtkiewicz, who was not only ensuring the C-17s could reach their destination, but also being evaluated to upgrade his role from co-pilot to aircraft commander. 

Known as a “checkride,” this evaluation culminated years of studying and training to obtain the coveted title of aircraft commander. Coincidentally, Wojtkiewicz accomplished his in the midst of SR18, which includes 12,000 participants from seven nations.

“It was nerve-wracking to say the least,” laughed Wojtkiewicz. “On one hand I had my evaluators watching my every move and grading my decisions, but I was also piloting an aircraft necessary to get those C-17s to their mark.

“It’s incredible to see afterward how important our job truly is, by extending the reach of our nation’s support.”

Flying in formation on June 8, the eight C-17s received their fuel from KC-135s and KC-10 Extender aircraft. Later that day, the paratroopers landed across Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

“No nation stands alone, and no nation’s immune to the threat of violence posed by terror,” said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander, U.S. European Command. “We’re definitely stronger together, and we’re more effective as a team.”

As one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world, SR18 aims to bolster the airborne forces of the U.S.’s partner nations and provide crisis response quickly and effectively no matter the location.