Andersen Airmen support continuous bomber presence

  • Published
  • By Airman Whitney Amstutz
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The KC-135 Stratotanker is an aerial refueling aircraft originally designed to refuel strategic bombers. However, during major conflicts such as the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, the KC-135 proved its true worth as a tool to extend the range and endurance of military tactical fighters, airlifters and bombers.

The 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron is a permanent resident of the 36th Operations Group. However, its members are on a one-month rotation from Air National Guard tanker units throughout the U.S.

They provide a pivotal link in providing consecutive, in-flight refueling operations for Andersen AFB's current complement of deployed fighters, airlifters and bombers in support of the continuous bomber presence and theater security packages in the Pacific region. During October, Airmen from the 168th Air Refueling Wing from the Alaska ANG are taking on the role as the 506 EARS.

To ensure a smooth and effective transition, a regimented system is in place to guarantee all positions are manned and functional at all times.

"On the first jet, we send in all commanders, first sergeants and shop chiefs so that they can be properly indoctrinated on how everything works and what is needed to maintain the mission," said Lt. Col. Matthew Mrzena, the 506th EARS commander. "Then, because our footprint has to remain the same, we swap out one for one -- as one comes in to fill a certain position, the Airman who previously filled it, leaves. We do this until the transition is complete."

Each ANG unit remains on base for a month in its three-month activation window to fulfill the needs of the Air Force in a multitude of regions.

"Tankers are a high-value asset and are always in high demand," Colonel Mrzena said. "Many active duty tanker units are continuously present in the Central Command theater. The ANG has stepped up to provide relief in other areas of responsibility.

"The 506 EARS is an example," he said. "We are a full-time force fulfilling the needs in the Pacific theater seamlessly with part-time assets."

Members of the Guam ANG are also supporting the mission here in conjunction with the 168th ARW.

"We have several Guam ANG Airmen on our manning documents," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renson, the 168th Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "These individuals went through home-station training with our unit in Alaska and for all intents and purposes, are a part of the Alaska ANG."

During their stay here, the 168th ARW Airmen have been responsibe to train Guam ANG members, as well as members of their own unit.

"We are taking this opportunity to hammer home whatever training we can," Chief Renson said. "Our objective is to prepare these Airmen to accept the tanker tasking and ensure the Air Force mission presses forward."