Booming Business for the 161st

  • Published
  • By 2Lt Matt Murphy
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing
"We get to lay down and pass gas," says Senior Master Sgt. Bill Garrett of his position as an air refueling specialist commonly referred to as a "Boom" operator. Somehow "boom" and "gas" are two words the average person may not want to hear in conjunction. Sergeant Garrett's recent trip or "sortie" was from Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base to Honolulu, Hawaii where he mentored and trained a new boomer, Staff Sgt. Kyle Davidson.

According to the official Air Force job description, refueling specialists are tasked to hook up the flying tanker with the aircraft being refueled. The equipment used to accomplish the task is in the form of a long metal arm, with different sections, called the "boom". This is the specific reason that the job position has become nicknamed "boomer, or boom operator." The boomer is responsible for extending the long joined extendable metal boom that connects the KC-135 refueling tanker with the different types of aircraft. As a boomer, training and flying missions average four and a half hours long.

It is a job position with a lot of flexibility; the person that serves in this position can be anyone from Airman Basic to a Chief Master Sergeant.

"Making a contact with a receiver, just like anything else - practice makes perfect, but it's such a little part of the overall big picture game of being a boom operator. I think one of the big things with going with someone like Senior [Garrett} who's so experienced and been doing it for so long are the little ins-and-outs of going on a TDY, going OCONUS, is invaluable seeing someone who's done it a lot," says Sergeant Davidson of his mentor. Davidson recently returned from his technical school in Altus, Oklahoma prior to the Hawaii trip.

"You're going to find that there are guys that are more experienced and have seen more stuff, but also the younger guys are going to look at it from a different way, too and factor into that. It's nice having them back from school because they know the books. As you get older, you really have to watch yourself. You start to get away from the books and you stay in them and its good having these guys come back because they know that stuff. It's been drilled into them," said Sergeant Garrett.

SergeantDavidson and Garrett agree the booming business at the 161st is a great job. Garrett says, "For an enlisted position, it is probably one of the best to have. You get two officers to take you to work, care for you... where else do you get that?"

It will take approximately 100 to 150 hours before Sergeant Davidson completes all of his qualifications, but with sorties to places like Hawaii he doesn't seem to mind the work