155th Air Refueling Wing Participates in Global Operations
By Tech. Sgt. Alex Salmon, JFHQ - Nebraska
/ Published July 22, 2011
Lincoln, Neb. -- Most warfare techniques from WWI have become antiquated or have been replaced thanks to new technology. However, the Nebraska Air National Guard continues to employ a deployment concept first created in 1917 - the Air and Space Expeditionary Force concept.
Better known as AEF, it was a concept born out of necessity and has evolved immensely since WWI. It allows the Air Force to organize, schedule and present its forces to combatant commanders in a structured, predictable manner.
"It's just a predictability of when Air Force member will, or can be expected to deploy and it's on a steady state cycle," said Col. Dennis Hayward, the 155th Air Refueling Wing's vice commander.
The AEF is a concept where different units are tasked to be in an AEF "bucket" for a period of time and should the need arise, combatant commanders can call for specific Air Force Specialty Codes to fill positions, or call upon an entire unit during that particular AEF bucket. Standard AEF cycles last 120 days for aviation assets and maintainers and 180 days for non-aviation assets.
According to Hayward, the 155th ARW began their most recent AEF cycle in the beginning of May and have deployed multiple aircraft, crews and support personnel since. The length of the deployments varies based on the asset and personnel utilized, but the end of the bucket will be the end of August.
The 155th's assets and personnel have been utilized in the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command showing the wing's ability.
"We're supporting the CENTCOM (area of responsibility) and we're also supporting PACOM," said Hayward. "So we're going east and we're going west."
Two KC-135R Stratotanker refueling jets, three crews, three crew chiefs and a few support staff deployed to the CENTCOM AOR in the Middle East to support operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. All told approximately 25 Airmen have deployed to CENTCOM to support any refueling missions needed.
"We're just plugging the pieces into the refueling mechanism that's over there and we're just supplying the pieces to make sure that all the parts are there," said Hayward.
The aircraft are deployed on 30-day rotations with the crews and support staff performing 30- to 60-day rotations.
The 155th also has two aircraft and multiple support staff in Guam, which is in the PACOM AOR. Hayward said the Guam deployments are unique because the 155th is responsible for the leadership package there for the first 40 days and then turned over that leadership to the 117th ARW from Birmingham, Ala., for the last 20 days of the rotation.
Master Sgt. Mary Baker, the first sergeant for the Mission Support Group, deployed to Guam from late April to late May and served as the first sergeant for both 155th and 117th personnel. According to Baker, approximately 80 Airmen from the 155th rotated in and out of Guam during the cycle.
During their time in Guam, the 155th tackled a role they are very familiar with.
"We provided air refueling support for the B-52 bombers that are stationed over in that theater," said Baker. "We are the lifeline, not only to them, but to anything that happens over in that theater that PACOM needs support on."
As a first sergeant, Baker was able to see a lot of what 155th personnel accomplished, and said she was pleased with the work she saw.
"I probably see more than the average person does because I am in a lot of different places," said Baker. "I think they did an outstanding job. I think we supported the mission really well."
"I think we accomplished our mission and we supported the B-52s and everything they were doing and as long as we don't have to make them cancel any sortie, we're doing our job," she added. "As long as we can always give them the refueling that they need, when they need it, where they need it, we're doing our mission."
Hayward said he is also happy with the accomplishments of the 155th in both the CENTCOM and PACOM areas, and it shows the level of training and professionalism the members of the 155th can bring to the table.
"We're maintaining the fact that we're ready to go at all times," said Hayward. "We're relevant to what the needs of the nation are for the Department of Defense and it vindicates all of the training and our Airmen are ready to go and support the nation's missions."
Baker echoed Hayward's thoughts and is proud of the Airmen that maintain the Nebraska Air National Guard's good name.
"I think it increases our reputation across the Air Force," said Baker. "I think we from Nebraska have a really excellent reputation and our Airmen do a really good job of keeping that reputation good. We're willing to go the extra mile and do whatever we can to get the mission done...and we do it to the best of our ability."
And although the 155th is responsible to fill the positions when they are requested, the Airmen that step up and take on the mission volunteer for it, and that says a lot about them.
"It says that they're here to support the state and nation," said Hayward. "It's an all volunteer force, they volunteered to join the Nebraska Air National Guard, they have maintained their readiness and they're trained in their specific duties."
"I think it says a lot about our Airmen here in Nebraska," said Baker. "We raise our hand and we volunteer and we stick with it and we go when we're called upon and we don't look back. That kind of devotion I think is especially unique sometimes to the Guard."
"That whole volunteerism and sticking to it to me really says a lot about their character and how much we really care about our mission and we care about supporting our nation."
Even though the AEF concept was created almost 100 years ago during aviation's infancy, it remains a valid and effective way to employ the Air Force's capabilities. By providing a transparent, predictable deployment table, the Airmen of the Nebraska Air National Guard continue to stay ready to deploy world-wide at a moment's notice and the 155th is showing their relevance daily by answering the nations call and deploying aircraft and Airmen throughout the world whenever they're needed.
"The wing is doing what we're asked to do and we're doing it very well," said Hayward. "Our folks are out there being safe and taking care of each other, being good wingmen to each other and doing the job that they're trained to do."