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Boom operator soars, rises to challenge

Senior Airman Crystal Cash refuels a 125th Fighter Wing F-15 Eagle on the way to exercise Vigilant Shield 15, Oct. 20, 2014, near MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The field training exercise is a bi-national NORAD Command exercise that provides realistic training and practice for American and Canadian forces in support of respective national strategy for North America’s defense. Cash is a 91st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

Senior Airman Crystal Cash refuels a 125th Fighter Wing F-15 Eagle on the way to exercise Vigilant Shield 15, Oct. 20, 2014, near MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The field training exercise is a bi-national NORAD Command exercise that provides realistic training and practice for American and Canadian forces in support of respective national strategy for North America’s defense. Cash is a 91st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

During a late-night flight over Afghanistan, then-Airman 1st Class Crystal Cash steadied her hand and readied herself to carry out what she had been training to do for the last year.

On top of it being her very first solo flight as a boom operator, Cash was preparing to refuel a B-1 Lancer in inclement weather.

With nerves pushed aside and the pilots' support, Cash was able to successfully refuel the B-1, allowing the crew to continue their mission with a full tank. At the age of 19, she never thought she would be trusted with so much responsibility.

Now 21 years old and a senior airman, Cash, a 91st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, continues to be proficient in her job.

"I would advise people aspiring to be a boom operator to prepare to spend a lot of time studying," said Cash, who added that boom operators must be able to recall the rules and regulations and fully understand the aircraft inside and out, because even the smallest error could cost the Air Force money and potentially someone's life.

Air refueling is vital to Air Force air operations because it allows our Airmen to fly anywhere in the world nonstop, within hours. Without refueling, the mission could not be accomplished as efficiently.

In the short time Cash has been in the service, she has accomplished more than 700 flying hours in the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling various aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle, F-22 Raptor, B- 52 Stratofortress, C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III.

"Senior Airman Cash has excelled in all duties since she has joined the Air Force," said Master Sgt. Benjamin Cobb, the operations superintendent for the 6th Operations Group.

He pointed out that her role as a ground scheduler has helped ensure that all squadron members received their upgrade training in order to be fully mission-capable, and her direct actions on multiple deployments contributed to the airstrikes against the terrorist cells in Afghanistan and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"I am grateful for all the experiences I have had so far in the Air Force," Cash said. "I would never wish that things happened differently."

For future goals, she hopes to be accepted into an Air Force ROTC program and continue pursuing her bachelor's degree in biology.

"If I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to be commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, I would like to come back as a flight nurse," Cash said. "That way, I could continue to fly while working in the medical field."

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