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Two units, one mission: The ties that bond us together

  • Published
  • By Joshua J. Seybert
  • 911th Airlift Wing

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — What does the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa have to do with the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, more than 900 miles away?

It all started with a couple of pilots who happened to be good friends.

“It just so happens a friend of mine — Maj. Kevin Kretz — just transitioned out of active duty into the 911th Airlift Wing,” said Maj. Ryan Hildreth, 174th Air Refueling Squadron instructor pilot. “We had some phone calls between us to see if we could work together, and we’ve been able to meet up about halfway between the two bases on one of the area of responsibilities a few times. We hope to continue the relationship.”

The relationship between the two units is only a couple months old and the way it came to be is only one thing that ties them together.

The 911th AW is currently undergoing an aircraft conversion from the C-130 Hercules to the C-17 Globemaster III.

Approximately 16 years ago, the 185th ARW underwent an aircraft conversion of their own. It was a bit more complex as they transformed from a fighter wing with the F-16 Fighting Falcon to a refueling wing with the KC-135 Stratotanker. These are two completely different airframes, where the 911th upgraded from a smaller cargo aircraft to a much larger one.

“We know what you guys are going through,” said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Heald, 174th Air Refueling Squadron inflight refueling specialist. “We were there not too long ago, we worked with other units and were going all over the country learning the job.”

This situation sounds very familiar to many Airmen at the 911th AW who are spending a lot of time working away from their families and home station learning new jobs in support of the base’s new C-17 mission.

Now that the 911th AW is flying C-17 aircraft there are opportunities for air refueling missions. The C-130s did not have air refueling capabilities. The air refueling missions allow the two units to work together, not only transferring fuel, but also transferring experience from one wing that’s been through an aircraft conversion to another currently doing the same thing.

The air refueling missions don’t just help members of the 911th AW, they help new members from the 185th ARW get spun up on mandatory refueling training blocks.

“We are happy to help,” Heald said. “There were a lot of units that helped us, so we’re glad we can pay it forward.”

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this cooperative effort. No matter what you’re going through, chances are someone else has gone through it before. You never know who you might need to rely on and who might need to rely on you.