AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --- The 50th Air Refueling Squadron from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, along with several of their KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, as part of a mass unit deployment, Aug. 18, 2020.
This marks the first time the 50th ARS has deployed as a mass unit to project combat power by providing agile, effective air refueling in line with the objectives of the Combined Forces Air Component Command and Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component.
Attached to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid, the 50th will relinquish their ARS name, and become the 50th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron replacing the current 349th EARS.
“One of the greatest assets that the 50th brings to the fight is our ability to adapt and overcome adversity,” said Lt. Col. Menola Guthrie, 50th EARS commander. “We have a great team of resilient people who are ready to get to work.”
During their deployment, the 50th EARS will fly a variety of missions and can expect to refuel aircraft ranging from bombers, reconnaissance, fighters and cargo, both U.S. and Coalition.
“The primary mission of the 50th ARS will be to deliver fuel to U.S. and coalition forces to enable air superiority, regional deterrence, and stability throughout U.S. Central Command,” said Lt. Col. John Stephens, 379th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. “These missions are critical to denying Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant territorial safe-havens, providing stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and deterring Iranian aggression in the region.”
According to Stephens, AUAB provided nearly half of the area of responsibilities air-to-air refueling needs during the last rotation, a feat the 50th EARS will continue.
“Alongside [its] sister squadron at Al Udeid, the 340th EARS and the 349th EARS have been responsible for approximately 50 percent of the fuel in the AOR,” he said. “Since arriving in theater, the 349 EARS has flown in excess of 1,100 combat missions, over 7,000 combat hours and provided over 38 million pounds of fuel to coalition receivers.”
The in-flight refueling capabilities will support operations Inherent Resolve, Freedom Sentinel and Spartan Shield.
“One of the greatest capabilities that the KC-135 has is bringing the fuel to the fight,” said Guthrie. “It is through in-flight refueling operations that we enable air superiority and global reach by allowing Coalition fighter and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] (ISR) aircraft to remain in the air to provide support to the boots on the ground.”
Guthrie also explained that deploying as a unit in support of the mission not only develops their skills, but also their squadron’s bond, much like the historic bond the 50th shares with the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“Much like the 379th, the 50th has a rich history that was forged during World War II,” said Guthrie. “The 50th’s first squadron deployment was on May 13, 1943, which involved a seven-day trans-Atlantic voyage on the USS West Point on their way to Casablanca, Morocco, which would later become the home of the 379th Bomb Group, so the 50th and 379th share a past dating back to World War II.”
In the past, the 50th was an Airlift Squadron, but was re-designated an Air Refueling Squadron with KC-135s in 2017.
After the 50th EARS completes their four-month deployment in winter 2020, the squadron will be relieved by the 350th ARS from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.