04/11/08 — Ceremony set for base's new refueling squadron

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Ceremony set for base's new refueling squadron

By Renee Carey
Published in News on April 11, 2008 2:16 PM

A new active-duty squadron will be activated on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Saturday -- but its members will not be assets of the 4th Fighter Wing.

Officials from the 916th Air Refueling Wing are scheduled to stand up the 911th Air Refueling Squadron early tomorrow morning, keeping in line with 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations.

And for the man who will command the 260-plus airmen associated with the new unit, it is sure to be a "great day."

Lt. Col. Bill Uptmor said it will be the end of the year before his squadron is at full strength.

But members of the unit have been "trickling in" for the past few months, and currently, there are about 40 at Seymour Johnson.

Garry Seay is one of them. And the 911th superintendent and Air Force chief master sergeant looks forward to matching the quality of work expected from the best Reserve wing in the ranks.

"We have one job -- to provide a safe, reliable airframe," he said. "Right now, what we are doing is blending ... I call it the seamless blend. That's my goal, to make this as painless as possible."

Uptmor believes the transition will be a smooth one.

"The active duty will come in and we will tie in with the Reserves," he said. "The idea is you get a synergistic effect in having people that can fly the aircraft at all times and marrying them up with the Reserve folks."

The ability to keep the KC-135R flying at all times was a major factor in the BRAC decision to add an active-duty unit to the 916th.

Uptmor knows just how important that is.

"The KC-135R, to me, having grown up in it, it's the backbone of our mobility force and our combat forces. If you look at the operations we're engaged in right now across the globe, they don't happen without refueling," he said. "When it comes time to do something in Iraq or Afghanistan ... without the KC-135 and the KC-10, it just doesn't happen."

Uptmor said it is unclear how many of his airmen would live on base.

But with housing at Seymour Johnson "shrinking," he expects most will live outside the gates.

"They are probably not going to be able to accommodate all of our people so a lot of them are going to be living off base," he said. "And talking to the housing office here on base, it sounds like the community is well-prepared to receive them."

But it is not just the availability of housing that would make Goldsboro and Wayne County such an asset to those airmen, he said.

"The Goldsboro community has more than a solid reputation as far as taking care of our airmen and supporting the mission," he said. "In fact, it's an outstanding reputation."

So as 30 to 40 new airmen arrive each month from now until early fall, he is confident each will be embraced -- not only by those already stationed at Seymour Johnson, but by the community that surrounds it.

"The community and the 4th Fighter Wing have just been tremendous in welcoming us and giving us all the support we need," Uptmor said. "As you know, bringing a unit onto a base is no small task."