Buy the ticket; take the ride

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chad Dixon
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

When servicemembers raise their right hand and take their oath of service, they are in essence buying a ticket on a ride like no other.

From basic training and officer candidate school to tech schools, professional military education, continuing education and temporary duty assignments coupled with daily duties of professional and personal lives, military careers are filled with hard work, training and deadlines.

However, milestones of success are achieved along the way and on a recent TDY to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, three members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing were able to achieve a few milestones.

1st Lts. Nathalie Hamilton and Kennedy Humphrey, pilots with the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, traveled to JBER to support elements of Exercise Red-Flag Alaska, beginning August 14, 2023, which coincidentally was their first temporary duty or TDY.

“This was my first-time refueling F-22 Raptors and I was impressed, but not surprised, by their efficiency and precision,” said Hamilton. “There is nothing quite like getting to see the sun glisten off the gold canopy as each one (Raptor) slides up to be refueled. Being a part of something that shows the world our air superiority is one of the reasons I love flying the KC-135.”

Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 23-3 brought together military forces from the United States, Australia, and other partner nations for two weeks of intensive and realistic aircraft flight training over the sprawling expanse of the Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex.

“My first experience of Alaska was incredible,” said Humphrey. “Getting to train with and provide support to the F-22s while also getting to experience the incredible views is something I will never forget.”

Lt. Col. Mark Povec, pilot with the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron, was the aircraft commander during the training mission, and explained the importance of the TDY.

“It’s always important to apply real word implementation and share institutional knowledge with the younger generation of pilots,” Povec said. “This exercise gave us an opportunity to participate in aerial refueling of multiple weapon systems.”

According to 673rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs at JBER, this year's exercise featured approximately 2,000 U.S. service members from 20 units, all of whom were involved in flying, maintaining, and supporting more than 80 aircraft.

Various units from the Japan Air Self Defense Forces, Republic of Korea Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Royal Air Force, and NATO have also participated in past iterations of the 2023 exercise. The exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures among these diverse groups has enhanced interoperability, allowing for seamless collaboration in future joint operations.

Staff Sgt. John “Trip” Sorrell III, boom operator with the 465th Air Refueling Squadron, is a recent cross trainee into the world of aerial refueling and participated in his first TDY to Alaska.

“This was a unique experience and a little different than what I used to do,” Sorrell said. “It’s always awesome to refuel such a capable jet along with doing so in such a beautiful location. There is nothing quite like refueling a Raptor with the Alaskan mountains in the background.”

The transfer of knowledge from senior Airmen to junior Airmen is what keeps the Air Force flying. It’s an aspect of the ride that cannot be put in a book or institutionalized in a formal class but forms true Airmen.