Arizona ANG Deploys to Guam

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs
Early in aviation history many people tried and failed at flying across the Pacific Ocean, even today it remains a daunting task; however, with the support of aerial refueling this task is accomplished both safely and quickly.

To help ensure safe and timely missions over the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility, the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix deployed servicemembers and KC-135 Stratotankers to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Servicemembers from the 161 ARW are deployed here for 30 to 60 days through the months of February and March, supporting the units deployed tankers, enabling other aircraft to accomplish missions and perform training on time and with the precision that the U.S. Air Force is known throughout the world for, said Maj. Gilbert B. Besana, 506 Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron operations flight commander, deployed from the 161 ARW.

Mid-air refueling contributes to the Air Forces precision by allowing aircraft to fly over the Pacific Ocean without diverting to refuel on-ground. It also allows bombers and other support aircraft to remain airborne longer, extending the range of the U.S. Air Force's global reach, said Col. Steven Balser, 506 Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron Commander and the 161 ARW Commander.

He also said that it allows theater security to be more effective, permitting aircraft to lessen fuel loads and carry a larger amount of weaponry.

One of the benefits of supporting PACAF missions is the real world training deployed servicemembers receive, said Staff Sgt. Joshua Frye, 506 EARS repair and reclamation specialist, deployed from the 161 ARW.

"As a guard member, it's great to be able to come out here and get some hands-on training that I might not normally get at home," he said. "For example, not only am I tasked with repair and reclamation here, I am also tasked with being a Crew Chief, which I don't get the chance to do back at home station."

He said that some of the new training came with challenges though.

"We were tasked with jacking an aircraft, but nobody had ever done this before and only a few of the [airmen] had experience with the jacks; however, we were able to work together and accomplish the task - successfully getting the aircraft off the ground," said Sergeant Frye.

Senior Master Sgt. Chase Gibbons, 506 EARS production superintendent said that this teamwork is essential in completing the missions here in a deployed environment.

"Teamwork is essential to our capabilities and our desire to participate in global mission efforts, regardless of what they might be; however, although team efforts are important to mission success, we would not have been successful had not everyone stepped up to the plate and gone above and beyond, individually," he said. "Whether it was working late nights, weekends, or the middle of the night, everyone collectively makes it happen."

Sergeant Gibbons said this individual sacrifice is what makes the deployment personally rewarding.

"It's very satisfying when a jet leaves the ground. You know each time an aircraft takes off that the effort, the time, the early hours and late nights were for something, and this 'something' is that we are here representing, not only the Air National Guard, but the [161 ARW] as well."