03/15/05 — Reservists' employees get the ride of their lives

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Reservists' employees get the ride of their lives

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 15, 2005 2:02 PM

The 916th Air Refueling Wing sponsored an Employee Appreciation Day on Saturday at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The event was held to thank the employers of reservists by giving them a chance to experience an in-flight refueling aboard a KC-135 aircraft.

A group of more than 40 people went along for the demonstration. They were greeted by Capt. Shannon Mann of the 916th Public Affairs Office. Col. Paul Sykes, the commander of the 916th, then briefed the employers on the history of the wing, as well as on the mission their employees are involved in as reservists.

"It's no longer one weekend a month, two weeks a year," Col. Sykes said of the reserves' duties.

Sykes described the KC-135 Stratotanker and its capabilities. An automobile could operate for a year on the fuel transferred through the air refueling boom in one minute, he said.

Erwin Gutzwiller of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserver organization then addressed the employers on reservists' rights as employees, and thanked the employers for their cooperation with the military.

Following the briefings, the employers viewed displays featuring Air Force weapons, vehicles, and survival equipment.

From there, it was on to the flight line. Employers boarded one of two KC-135s that would fly southwest, over South Carolina, to refuel a C-5 Galaxy.

Passengers sat on seats lining the interior of the plane as Master Sgt. "Rowdy" Smith gave safety instructions.

The plane took off just after 10 a.m., and was in the air for about an hour before refueling began. The C-5 Galaxy, flying out of Westover Air Force Base in Maine, came up from behind the KC-135 at over 26,000 feet.

For half an hour, Master Sgt. Smith lay on his stomach to refuel the C-5. Employers took turns on either side of him as Master Sgt. Smith carefully manipulated the boom while the aircraft were traveling at 500 miles per hour. The boom operator averages about 20 feet above the nose of the aircraft receiving fuel during this process.

Following the refueling, a boxed lunch was served as the KC-135s began the journey back to Seymour Johnson.

The precision and teamwork displayed brought smiles to the faces of the employers. It was an incredible to the civilians, but all in a day's work for the airmen of the 916th Refueling Wing.