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Humble, approachable, credible: 509th Weapons Squadron

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Buck” Medeiros, 509th Weapons Squadron advanced instructor course instructor, performs aerial refueling on a C-17 Globemaster from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Training flights help ensure that crews are able to perform aerial refueling without needing communication with the aircraft receiving fuel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Buck” Medeiros, 509th Weapons Squadron advanced instructor course instructor, performs aerial refueling on a C-17 Globemaster from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Training flights help ensure that crews are able to perform aerial refueling without needing communication with the aircraft receiving fuel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Long, 509th Weapons Squadron Weapons Instructor Course student, reviews a flight plan while flying over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Once a student completes the course to become a 509th WPS instructor, graduates will have a black band around their patch to signify their qualification to teach aerial refueling combat techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Long, 509th Weapons Squadron Weapons Instructor Course student, reviews a flight plan while flying over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Once a student completes the course to become a 509th WPS instructor, graduates will have a black band around their patch to signify their qualification to teach aerial refueling combat techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe “Dizzy” Melby, 509th Weapons Squadron commander, and Col. Gene Jacobus, 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, participate in training maneuvers while flying a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Pilots are committed to staying ready for possible deployments by practicing how to react to enemy fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Philippe “Dizzy” Melby, 509th Weapons Squadron commander, and Col. Gene Jacobus, 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, participate in training maneuvers while flying a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Inland Northwest Jan. 22, 2020. Pilots are committed to staying ready for possible deployments by practicing how to react to enemy fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

Fighting a war in the air takes more than fancy weapons and hi-tech jets. The high-performance engines that make U.S. military aircraft so lethal also require one key component during very critical times – fuel.

While all KC-135 pilots train for air refueling, some get the chance to go above and beyond the basics by learning advance tactics and skills in the 509th Weapons Squadron, which produces 24 boom operators, pilots and navigators every year that are fully trained in providing advanced air refueling capabilities for any situation and at any location.

“The weapons instructor course is comprised of over 400 hours of academic instruction in 23 weeks,” said Maj. Brandon “Borat” Carter, 509th Weapons Squadron weapons instructor chief. “We plan and execute 15 flying missions and multiple ground missions, which gives students experience in building an airspace or figuring out how many tankers and crews we need in certain locations.”

Part of what makes the 509th WPS so effective is learning from past wars, conflicts and reports. Through lessons learned, the squadron is able to develop their tactical training plans to increase effectiveness and ensure success in the future. 

“Throughout our wars, we take our lessons learned, our techniques, our tactics and our procedures, and we put those in documents, which are the lessons that we teach,” Carter said. “[These lessons are] all for the purpose of the discussions. [We examine] threats and the measures we take to win against the threat.”

In addition to TTP’s, the 509th WPS teaches students counter tactics and how to plan an approach to a potentially threat-ridden territory.

“One of the things that we teach is counter tactics. I’d say the bulk of that is planning, so you already have a plan when going out into the threat environment, you leverage all of your resources, and you get all of the other forces to protect you as well,” said Lt. Col. Philippe “Dizzy” Melby, 509th WPS commander. “It’s a good mix of everything from reactionary to planned, and we even talk about the operational planning as well, such as how many tankers you need to bring to a fight to deliver the effects the planner needs.”

Stood up in 1947, the 509th Air Refueling Squadron was the first refueling squadron. Named after the squadron and packed with history and heritage, the 509th WPS is the only tanker weapons squadron in the Air Force.

“The 509th and 43rd ARS were the first Air Refueling Squadrons in the Air Force at the time. Starting off with refueling aircraft and evolving from there because everyone saw how important air refueling was,” Carter said. “Air Mobility Command stood up the KC-135 combat employment school and they then consolidated the school with the 57th Weapons Wing to create a grouping of all the experts who are developing TTP’s, employing and increasing our combat capabilities.”

The 509th WPS is committed to producing humble, approachable, and credible instructor pilots, navigators and boom operators. The squadron teaches them to be efficient and sufficient at producing and implementing TTP’s and counter tactics, to deliver rapid global mobility.