Red Devils demonstrate full mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley Perdue
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Since Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, implemented his “Accelerate Change or Lose” directive, Airmen across the Air Force have taken ownership to deter near-peer adversaries and push innovation.

The 50th Air Refueling Squadron’s Red Devils demonstrated their commitment to advancing their global war fighting capabilities by conducting a joint integration exercise from June 1–7 at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

The training was conducted to aid in classified planning and fully integrated mission briefings for the 2021 Pacific Weasel Large Force Exercise while adding air refueling for a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and aircrew assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 and VP-11, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. This allowed them to test new ways of working with joint partners internationally on the ground and in the air.

“This trip was an opportunity to accelerate the rate of our change as a tanker force to reach beyond our comfort zone to try new ways of doing business with our joint partners in a new international environment,” said Capt. Gordon Spahr, 50th ARS KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot. “Operating in a different region of the world represents a task that tanker pilots often do not think about and I think that needs to change.”

The 50th also took advantage of their travel time to display capabilities that tested the aircrew and the aircraft while integrating a hot-pit refueling with Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington - the first ever to occur between Air Mobility Command bases.

“The big implication with this operation on our trip is that quick-turning refueling aircraft is no longer simply a ’home station’ capability,” Spahr said. “It can now be a world-wide capability, and MacDill, partnering with Fairchild, has taken the first step towards making that a reality.”

After leaving Fairchild for Misawa, the crew trained on various in-flight scenarios which tested their reliability on external command authorities while in contested environments.

“To simulate this scenario, our crew completed our Pacific Weasel Exercise Tanker plan while simultaneously flying over the Pacific Ocean,” Spahr added. “We were able to comprehend a tactical scenario, brief, plan and print our sortie while in the aircraft.”

In addition to the classified planning, the 50th coordinated an air refueling sortie over the Pacific Ocean with U.S. Naval partners.

“This was my first time refueling a Navy P-8,” stated Airman 1st Class Cameron Andrews, 50th ARS boom operator. “I think it’s important to refuel, train and work with other flying squadrons throughout the Department of Defense because it not only helps our crews maintain readiness, but we can show our capability to travel across the world, mission plan from anywhere and support any mission by offloading fuel to any receiver.”

Despite not having the opportunity to work with foreign partners such as Japan, aircrew took the remaining time over the Pacific to train on maneuvering capabilities during a combat scenario.

“Beyond some of the more normal operations we’re used to supporting as tanker crews, we tested the limits of the KC-135’s current employment envelope by practicing new capabilities and tactics in a high end fight (scenario),” Spahr said. “While we were unable to work with Japan during this particular trip, this type of integration may prove invaluable in the future as it pertains to regional security and the projection and protection of our common goals.”

According to Spahr, deepening partnerships, while simultaneously forging new ways to project combat power, proves that Team MacDill is working hard to keep up with Brown’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” mandate.

“While the outside observer may take this trip at face value, I want to highlight the fact that every Air Force Specialty Code played its part in making our mission happen,” Spahr concluded. “Whether you are authorizing finances for mission execution, securing our aircraft on an unfamiliar field, providing ground transportation for crews, fueling or maintaining our aircraft, or supporting our loved ones at home, each person makes an impact on the success of our team and ultimately affect our ability to win as an Air Force and as a nation.”