190th returns home from CENTCOM deployment

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Angela Brees
  • 190th Public Affairs
More than 125 members of the 190th Air Refueling Wing recently returned home after a two-month deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron for the duration of the deployment, wing members joined their active duty counterparts to provide air refueling support to fighting forces throughout the Middle East. At present, it is the largest deployed tanker squadron in Air Force history, said Lt. Col. Ken Folger, 117th ARS commander, who served as the director of operations while deployed.

"We consistently off-loaded more than 2 million pounds of fuel per day," he said. "I've never seen anything like it. It was 24-hour ops. We, in the tanker world, took off about every 40 minutes. We never had a down day; we never stopped."

Master Sgt. Troy Abel, who is the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
at home but served as a crew chief deployed, echoes the challenges of such fast-paced operations.

"There were some long weeks, working 12 hours a day, six days a week," he said. "The flying tempo was very heavy. Some days you were busy from beginning to end; but then other days you'd have it a bit easier."

The 340th Expeditionary Squadron is made up of several tanker units, potentially creating additional challenges for 190th members as well - from changes in launch and recovery procedures to performing maintenance on different KC-135s.

One significant difference is that crew chiefs were not assigned to a particular aircraft. In addition, crew chiefs did not manage the launch of aircraft; it was done by various specialists. Nevertheless, 190th members worked hard to adjust quickly to local procedures.

"I'm very proud of how our wing members integrated with the other Air Force units," Abel said. "It's not how we do it at home, but everyone adjusted well. And, it was great to work on variations of the KC-135. It was a good chance for us to get into different sections of the maintenance books."

Folger appreciates the challenges and efforts of the maintenance crew as well.

"The skin of the airplane can get so hot, and these guys were working hours on an airplane in that heat," he said. "Those guys on the ramp, working during the day ... that's a tough, tough job."

Technical Sgt. Stacy Whitlock, commander's support staff, said the day-to-day routine got a bit boring at times.

"It was a bit like Groundhog Day," she said. "I worked from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. So, I got off at 2 a.m., went to the gym, grabbed something to eat, and like a vampire, crawled into my hole as the sun was coming up. And by 2 p.m., I was headed to the gym and then back to work."

"But, it was a great trip," she continued. "I got the chance to meet a lot of nice people."

For Folger and Abel, the deployment also emphasized the significance of the tanker mission.

"This is probably the one theater we deploy to which you get the perspective of how important our mission is," Folger said.

"We were keeping fighters and bombers in the fight - to give the ground what they needed," Abel said. "And, I have great pride in how everyone represented the unit."

The CENTCOM deployment was one of two Air Expeditionary Force deployments tasked to the 190th ARW.