18th Air Force commander expresses importance of refueling mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alan Ricker
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A sense of urgency swept the building as flashing lights flickered and aircrew readied themselves to rush out the door. Aircrew quickly followed signs with red arrows with the word “ALERT” centered inside. Outside, a white vehicle - large enough to hold the entire crew and their guest, Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, was prepared to relocate the team to a KC-135 Stratotanker.


Once the alert crew arrived at the aircraft, they rushed on board and demonstrated how rapidly McConnell is able to provide aerial refueling at any given time. Barrett was able to witness engaging demonstrations first-hand that gave insight on how McConnell’s Airmen perform and help support the refueling mission.


“Air Refueling for the United States of America is one of the most precious capabilities that we have, and you deliver it each and every day,” said Barrett.


“The 18th Air Force is made up of twelve wings,” Barrett continued. “This is one of the very best wings in that enterprise, with perhaps the most stress and most critical mission set.”


During an all-call, Barrett talked about culture, innovation, leadership and full-spectrum readiness. He explained that the Air Force must be ready for tomorrow’s fight, not just today’s. McConnell is preparing for the future with the addition of the KC-46A Pegasus.


“[McConnell] has been given the opportunity to influence the future of air refueling,” Barrett exclaimed.


While the team is leading the way to employ the new aircraft, McConnell continues to deliver fuel.


“The addition of the KC-46 doesn’t change the fact that we’re delivering 36 million pounds of fuel each year to combatant commanders, regardless of the platform,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander.


Barrett confirmed that the KC-135 will hold the line and be the gap filler for carrying out the mission, while the KC-46 becomes fully operational.


“The new weapon system is critical, but the support that McConnell provides down range is never ending,” said Barrett. “Just this past year, McConnell flew over 9,000 flight hours and 2,300 sorties. In those 9,000 hours, they refueled 2,500 receivers.”


Barrett exclaimed that the global impact was impressive and emphasized the importance of the McConnell Airmen’s realization of their work and the effect it has on the overall mission.


“I want you to understand how you [fit] in the big picture,” said Barrett. “It is acknowledged by all the warfighting commanders around the world that there’s no plan that can be executed without air refueling.”