TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – No less than 4 units within the 507th Air Refueling Wing here sent their members to Alaska in July to hone skills and gain knowledge in each of their respective career fields.
Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 507th ARW Wing Staff, 507th Operations Group, 507th Maintenance Group and 507th Logistics Readiness Squadron traveled to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, for a breath of fresh training and to see what a different location and people can offer.
507th LRS members spent 14 days training on different aspects of their particular career fields that included, but were not limited to, quality assurance, material management, ground transportation, vehicle maintenance, transportation management office, and logistics planning.
According to the 507th LRS team of logistics planners who traveled to Alaska, Tech. Sgt. Jordan Navarro, Staff Sgt. Casey Cottrell and Senior Airman Justin Cockroft, logistics planning can be a daunting job.
Mainly known for command and control, they are responsible for coordinating with all entities, whether military or civilian, for the smooth transition of passengers and cargo from one location to another for deployments, exercises and, in this case, training.
“We planned this trip from beginning to end,” said Cockroft. “It was up to us to figure out how more than 40 people with baggage were going to get around, where we were going to stay, what aircraft we’re going to fly on and at the same time keep us all together so we don’t lose anyone or anything. It’s a big job.”
One obstacle they had to overcome for this particular trip was when they received notification that the runway at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was too short for the KC-135R Stratotanker to land on due to construction. They found out only five days prior to the aircraft’s arrival.
Cockroft explained that members of the 507th ARW Wing Staff and 507th LRS flew commercially to Alaska, because operational requirements prevented the unit’s KC-135R from being able to fly them there; however, everyone was depending on the aircraft for a ride home.
The 507th OG was prepared with a plan B and already had a contract in place with a fixed base operator at the local airport, which is an organization that provides fueling, parking and other aeronautical services to visiting aircraft.
However, the logistics planners had to quickly adjust their plans to accommodate the aircraft’s change in location. They had to figure out transportation for the return of rental vehicles, the 40 plus passengers to the new departure destination, organize a baggage team, coordinate clearance for a government vehicle to drive on a civilian flight line and maintain continuity with all members throughout the entire process. All the while complying with TSA regulations and working under a tight budget.
Cockroft said that even though the job can be stressful sometimes, logistics planners are always ready to overcome challenges that change can bring. When planning, they have to keep in mind that the KC-135R usually has mission requirements to meet in whatever location it flies to.
An aerial refueling aircraft does not simply fly to various locations to transport passengers and cargo. The primary mission of the KC-135 Stratotanker is to provide core aerial refueling capability for the Air Force and it has successfully done so for more than 50 years.
Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom and, depending on fuel storage configuration, the Stratotanker can carry up to 83,000 pounds of cargo.
With this capability, it’s rare for the aircraft to go anywhere without accomplishing at least one refueling mission and this trip to Alaska was no exception.
In the four days the 507th ARW’s KC-135R was there, it flew three aerial refueling missions, one per day, before flying everyone home to Oklahoma on the last day.
The communication between the logistics planners and the aircrew had to be constant in order to keep everyone and everything on track to ensure a smooth trip home.
On top of handling the logistics for the trip, the planners were able to receive critical training in the War Reserve Materials program, which they can’t get at Tinker AFB, according to Navarro.
“The program is essential towards readiness,” Navarro said. “The 773rd Logistics Readiness Squadron logistics planners trained us, so now we know how to make sure assets are healthy and ready for use in times of contingency.”
Overall, the 507th Air Refueling Wing’s Alaskan adventure was successful in that all mission and training requirements were met. Not only did the wing refuel more than 15 aircraft and accomplish much-needed training, but the personnel demonstrated flexibility, critical thinking and problem-solving to overcome all obstacles.