RAF MILDENHALL, England --- In a long-standing total force partnership between Air Force Reserve Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe, members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing are augmenting the 100th Air Refueling Wing here to provide KC-135R Stratotanker air refueling support to the European theater of operations in a deployment that began July 1 and ends July 29.
Airmen, along with their KC-135s, rotate monthly from various AFRC units to support the 100th ARW's robust refueling requirements. The 507th ARW will operate three rotations during 2017.
"It's important to support USAFE with air refueling of our NATO allies and regional partners, but it's also important to AFRC because our crews get experience in different areas of operation," said Air Force Maj. Walt Mettler, AFRC tanker air liaison officer.
The European theater of operations is busy, and keeping up with U.S. and regional partner training requirements can be challenging without the help of the Air Force Reserve, 100th Operations Support Squadron planners said.
"AFRC augmentation is increasing our refueling capacity for the entire European theater," Mettler added. "Air refueling here is in high demand."
Operation Atlantic Resolve
The Reserve units working here are tasked to support Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing operation to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Europe's security and stability while improving interoperability among allies and partner nations.
The 507th ARW has flown a sortie nearly every day since arriving here. Most of the local missions are in support of training for F-15 Eagles from RAF Lakenheath England, F-16 Fighting Falcons from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, MC-130J Commando IIs based here or training with allies and partners.
The Air Reserve Component can also be tasked by the Air Mobility Division in the 603rd Air and Space Operations Center to support emerging refueling requirements for USAFE. The Air Reserve Component supports NATO and USAFE requirements regularly. Sorting through all those requirements and coordinating with the ASOC, RAF Mildenhall and the Reserve crews is the job of the tanker ALO, who is also a Reservist and a KC-10 Extender pilot.
Mettler, an airline pilot in civilian life, plans missions for Reserve crews, ensuring tanker gas is delivered to U.S. and allied aircraft while here on orders. He is formally assigned to the 349th Air Mobility Operations Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, California.
Mission planning is critical to getting the Reserve crews out the door to support the mission safely day to day. The AFRC tanker ALO is located with the mission planners and schedulers for the 100th Operations Group.
"We work side by side with our Air Reserve Component partners here, which helps with integration," said Air Force Capt. Jonathan O'Neill, 351st Air Refueling Squadron mission planner. "[AFRC] helps us pick up additional air refueling requirements which we may not have been able to support."
Maintenance reservists work seamlessly with the 100th Maintenance Group, 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officials said. If an aircraft breaks, Reserve maintenance personnel will work the issue themselves or partner with the 100th Maintenance Group if parts or a specialty is needed, said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Justin Henry, deployed 507th AMXS superintendent.
The partnership that exists between the 100th ARW and AFRC is vital to meeting the air refueling requirements for Europe," Mettler said. "We hope to continue this partnership for a long time."
This year, in addition to the 507th ARW, Reserve crews from the 459th ARW, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California; 916th ARW, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina; 931st ARW, McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; 940th ARW, Beale Air Force Base, California; and the 434th ARW, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, have deployed to support USAFE aerial refueling requirements.