RAF MILDENHALL, England -- In a long-standing total force partnership between Air Force Reserve Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe, members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, augmented the 100th Air Refueling Wing here to provide KC-135R Stratotanker air refueling support to the European theater of operations, July 1-29.
Total Force Airmen, along with their KC-135s, rotated monthly from various AFRC units to support the robust refueling requirements of the 100th ARW. The 507th ARW operated a total of three monthly rotations during 2017.
“It’s important to support USAFE with air refueling of our NATO allies and regional partners, but it’s also important to AFRC because our crews get experience in different areas of operation,” said Maj. Walt Mettler, AFRC tanker air liaison officer.
The European theater of operations is busy, and keeping up with U.S. and regional partner training requirements can be challenging without the help of the Air Force Reserve, according to 100th Operations Support Squadron planners.
“AFRC augmentation is increasing our refueling capacity for the entire European theater,” Mettler said. “Air refueling here is in high demand.”
The Reserve units working here were tasked to support Operation Atlantic Resolve. According to U.S. European Command, OAR is an ongoing operation to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the security and stability of Europe while improving interoperability between allied and partner nations.
The 507th ARW flew sorties nearly every day while on station. Most of the local missions were in support of training for F-15 Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, England, F-16 Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, MC-130J Command IIs from RAF Mildenhall, England, or training with allies and partners.
The Air Reserve Component can also be tasked by the Air Mobility Division in the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center to support any emerging refueling requirements for USAFE. The Air Reserve Component supports NATO and USAFE requirements regularly.
Sorting through all those requirements and coordinating with the ASOC, RAF Mildenhall and the Reserve crews is the job of the Tanker ALO, who is also a Reservist and a KC-10 Extender pilot.
Mettler, who is also a civilian airline pilot, planned missions for Reserve crews to ensure delivery of tanker gas to U.S. and allied aircraft. He is formally assigned to the 349th Air Mobility Operations Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, California.
Mission planning was critical to getting Reserve crews out of the door to support daily missions. The AFRC tanker ALO was co-located with the mission planners and schedulers for the 100th Operations Group.
“We work side by side with our Air Reserve Component partners here which helps with integration,” said Capt. Jonathan O’Neill, 351st Air Refueling Squadron mission planner. “AFRC helps us pick up additional air refueling requirements which we may not have been able to support otherwise.”
Reservists from maintenance worked seamlessly with the 100th Maintenance Group, according to 507th ARW maintenance leadership. If an aircraft breaks, Reserve maintenance personnel work the issue themselves or partner with the 100th MXG if parts or a specialty is needed, according to Senior Master Sgt. Justin Henry, deployed 507th AMXS superintendent.
"The partnership that exists between the 100th ARW and AFRC is vital to meeting the air refueling requirements for Europe,” said Mettler. “We hope to continue this partnership for a long time.”
This year, in addition to the 507th ARW, Reserve crews from the 459th ARW, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March ARB, California; 916th ARW, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; 931st ARW, McConnell AFB, Kansas; 940th ARW, Beale AFB, California and the 434th ARW, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, deployed forward to support USAFE aerial refueling requirements.