TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – 507th Air Refueling Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen here flew 10 aerial refueling missions in a KC-135R Stratotanker Jan. 10-24, in support of Exercise Sentry Aloha, hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing located at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Hawaii.
Sentry Aloha is an ongoing series of combat exercises conducted by the HIANG several times a year. This iteration involved more than 900 personnel and nearly 40 aircraft from five other states. The 154th Wing is the largest Air National Guard wing in the U.S.
Other visiting units included E-3 Sentry support from 513th Air Control Group, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, F-16 Falcons from 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson AFB, Alaska, and F-15 Eagles from 144th FW, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California.
According to 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, Staff Sgt. Zachary Ludwig, the 507th ARW KC-135R Stratotanker has refueled most of these aircraft types during Sentry Aloha, but success didn’t come without a few challenges.
“We’ve had a couple of minor maintenance issues,” Ludwig said. “But as a team, we come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, so we were able to fix the problems with minimal impact to the mission.”
507th ARW Reserve Citizen Airmen also performed aerial refueling with F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron, part of the 154th Wing, and the 19th Fighter Squadron, 15th Wing, JBPHH, Hawaii.
According to 465th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot, 1st Lt. Brenden Valenti, from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, participating in the exercise provided real-world training for all Airmen.
“Anytime we go support an exercise or another unit outside of Oklahoma, the flight protocols are slightly different,” he said. “The last thing we want is for certain skill sets to atrophy, so being here has given invaluable experience to keep everyone capable and ready.”
Valenti also said that Sentry Aloha allowed different organizations the opportunity to interact.
“We had active duty, Guard and Reserve all working together to support the mission,” Valenti said. “And for new Airmen like me, it gives us a chance to see how the lines disappear in order to get the job done. We’re all Airmen and it’s one team, one fight.”
Currently, the KC-135’s primary mission is to provide aerial refueling support worldwide, with a secondary mission as a cargo and aeromedical evacuation transport.
The 507th Air Refueling Wing is the largest flying unit in the state of Oklahoma and performs daily missions around the world, refueling U.S. and NATO aircraft.
The other participating units in the first Sentry Aloha exercise of 2018 were 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; 185th ARW, Colonel Bud Day Field, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa; and 149th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Kelly Field Annex, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.