Tanker aircrews help in fight against ISIL

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vernon L. Fowler Jr.
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
With 16 KC-135 Stratotankers on its installation, Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, waste no time when answering the call to defend the nation -- even when there is little to no notice. As these planes can be seen and heard overhead, one has to wonder where in the world they are flying.

On June 27, 2014, four aircrews from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron were tasked to forward deploy on short notice in support of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL. Two KC-135s, each carrying two crews and a maintenance package, were flown 16 hours nonstop to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility in Southwest Asia.

"We were able to put crews in the AOR within 48 hours of a notification, getting them out to support the fight 17 hours faster than normal," said Lt. Col. Nathan Oliver, 6th Operations Group. "We deploy everyday ... this is what we do. The main responsibility of the deployed 91st ARS tanker crews is to support U.S. and coalition aircraft through air refueling whenever and wherever it's needed in support of the situation on the ground."

Two crew members, Capt. Ryan Christie and 1st Lt. Kaylyn Leibrand, recently deployed from MacDill. "It's important to do what we can to help and protect the citizens who can't protect themselves and the assets we have in the country," said Leibrand. "We are fueling assets in the air who are able to assist with the situation for Iraqi troops and civilians on the ground."

Since Aug. 8, U.S. aircraft supported by tanker units like those from MacDill have delivered humanitarian aid, including more than 101,000 halal meals and nearly 46,000 gallons of water, and conducted more than 130 airstrikes across Iraq. Air Force efforts have helped relieve some of the humanitarian suffering caused by ISIL and slowed their advance in Northern Iraq, giving Kurdish and Iraqi security forces time and space to resume offensive operations, including the recent recapture of the Mosul Dam.

According to Lt. Col. Gene Jacobus, the 91st ARS commander, not only is the 91st ARS still deploying crews, this is also one of the largest efforts they have supported in the last couple of years.

"All of our crews are prepared to deploy on short to no notice all the time" Jacobus said. "However, in order to do it on this scale, all of Team MacDill has to come together."

Because the 91st ARS is one of the largest active-duty tanker units in Air Mobility Command, they play a major role in the overall success of our nation's current fight against terrorism.

So when hearing or seeing news about the United States' strike on terrorism and campaign for peace from the air, just know that MacDill is helping to keep them flying there.