6th AMXS rolls out KC-135 aircraft 9/11 nose art

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Warner
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

On Sept. 11, 2001, United Flight 93 took off at 8:42 a.m. and it never made it to its targeted destination. It was hijacked by four al-Qaeda terrorists and after a fight with the passengers on-board, it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Flight 93, bravely said: “Let’s Roll” as he led other passengers in fighting to take back control of the aircraft from the terrorists. His words were overheard on a cell phone as the passengers made their charge.

“Let’s Roll” was echoed and emphasized as a 9/11 rallying cry by former Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. John P. Jumper, and since then, one aircraft per base is allowed to have this decal with those specific patriotic words.

 It only seemed fitting that it went to MacDill’s most combat-tested, deployed KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

“During the last 23 months at MacDill, KC-135 number ‘0342’ has been deployed 11 months,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Benko, a 927th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief. “It is our most reliable KC-135 for deployments.”

In comparison, KC-135 ‘0342’ has flown 1,143 hours and 176 sorties between November 2019 and November 2020. The next closest MacDill KC-135 has flown 871 hours and 154 sorties.

The 9/11 decal has a bald eagle in front of the American flag with Beamer’s call-to-action on it, “Let’s Roll.”

“The decal represents our fight against terrorism,” said Benko. “It is displayed proudly on several aircraft throughout the Air Force to recognize the heroes and victims during 9/11.”  

It is rare when an aircraft receives honorable distinction, but for those that do, it is symbol of pride and it’s just as meaningful as a service medal is for an honorary Airman.

“This decal is meant to inspire pride for the maintainers working on it, the pilots and aircrew members flying on it and our civilian counter-parts who see it,” said 2nd Lt. Kate Randall, the 6th AMXS accessories flight commander.

While the War on Terror still continues almost 20 years later after 9/11, this decal serves as a reminder of a time when people put aside their differences and worked together towards a cause worth fighting for.

It’s this type of selfless service that the Air Force embodies as a core value, and it is a human characteristic worth striving for each and every day.