McConnell's 349th ARS named best Air Force air refueling unit

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Armando A. Schwier-Morales
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 349th Air Refueling Squadron has been named the most outstanding air refueling squadron in the Air Force.

This is the second time members of the 349th ARS have received the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Trophy within three years.

"I am extremely proud of the 349th ARS," said Col. Jamie Crowhurst, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander. "Their superior warfighter support, dedication and volunteering efforts paid off."

With fewer than 90 members, and more than half deployed at one time, 349th ARS Airmen managed to complete the mission at home and abroad.

"You don't earn this trophy because it's recognition of sustained achievement," said Lt. Col. Andre Briere, the 349th ARS commander. "It's really a marathon and that's what's gratifying about it, the fact that our extraordinary efforts are getting recognized."

Aircrews in the 22nd ARW posted a record of 42,000 flying hours, breaking the Air Mobility Command average by 43 percent. The ability of the Airmen in the 349th ARS to work as a team was also a contributing factor.

"I am happy to be part of this squadron because everybody is working hard and no one wants to be the person who's letting down everyone else," said 1st Lt. Daniel Ouper, the 349th ARS executive officer. "We are willing to sacrifice something to make our squadron the best, whether it be working a little harder, longer or doing extra work just to help out the next guy."

This effort included the execution of more than 2,777 combat missions where approximately 35.2 million pounds of fuel were offloaded to more than 1,800 receivers.

"Every flying unit in the Air Force does extraordinary things," Colonel Briere said. "We all look very similar when you match up what we do operationally because we are fighting three wars. What really set us apart is the culture of service in this squadron."

While completing the mission, members of the 349th ARS continued their history of volunteering in the local Wichita, Kan., community. From participating in Big Brother Big Sisters events throughout the year to providing scholarships for kids in need, they have garnered a more than 8,400 hours of community service.

"All the volunteering is during a period where we are experiencing our highest operations tempo in the history of this airframe," Colonel Briere said.

Whether it's helping Boy Scouts attain their Eagle Scout badges, refueling an E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, serving dinner to the homeless or performing an aeromedical evacuation, the 349th ARS will not stop, according to the colonel.

"Being the number one air refueling squadron in the U.S. Air Force two out of three years is very good," he said. "But for the 349th, our goal is to up the ante and do more for the mission, (Big Brothers Big Sisters) kids and the Wichita community every year."

Members of the 349th Air Refueling Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., pose for a photo May 5, 2011, with their 2008 and 2010 Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Trophies. The Spaatz Trophy recognizes the best air refueling unit in the Air Force. In 2008, the 349th ARS also won the trophy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Armando A. Schwier-Morales)