The future of the Air Force takes off at Scott Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Johnathon R. Orrell
  • 126th Air Refueling Wing
With pre-flight checks complete, 10,000 feet of runway before them, and tower clearance received the KC-135 Stratotanker crew pushed the throttles forward and were thrust back in their seats as the aircraft's mighty engines roared and the smell of jet fuel lingered on the runway. 

The takeoff was smooth and the skies were bright as the 185,000 pound aircraft climbed towards its cruising altitude and quickly departed the airspace surrounding Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
While takeoffs and landings are a routine occurrence at Scott AFB, the flight mentioned above was anything but routine; it was the future of the Air Force. 

The aircrew aboard Happy 62 on Sept. 9 was the first all Active Duty piloted aircraft for the Active Association between the 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, Scott AFB and the 906th Air Refueling Squadron. Planning for the association required years of strategy and forward thinking and this flight was one of the first fruits of that labor. 

Happy 62 was piloted by Active Duty Capts. Doug Booser and Matt Mills, with Tech. Sgt. JL Smith serving as the in-flight refueling specialist or boom operator. The crew chiefs for the flight were 126th ARW Guardsmen Tech. Sgt. Pete Rabyk and Staff Sgt. Will Alberts. The co-mingling of Active Duty flight crews with National Guard maintenance crews and vice versa may be a thing of curiosity now, but will be routine and commonplace in the not so distant future. 

The Active Association between the 126th ARW and 906th ARS is one of 10 current or near future Active Associations and one of five KC-135 Active Associations. It is the first of its kind for the 126th ARW and will start a new chapter in the Wing's storied history. 

"An active association for the 126th ARW represents the right vision for our future as total force partners at Scott AFB," said Col. Pete Nezamis, 126th ARW commander. "Increased efficiencies combining the best practices of Air Mobility Command and the Air National Guard will provide greater aircraft availability and utilization, increasing the capability to support world-wide aerial refueling requirements. The benefits from these synergies are immeasurable to today's Airmen." 

As part of the active association between the 126th ARW and the 906th ARS, the Active Duty personnel assigned to the 906th ARS fly planes owned and maintained by the 126th ARW. The 375th Air Mobility Wing is the parent Wing for the 906th and handles all administrative and logistical issues. 

"Having the Active Association unit stand up at Scott is another testimony of how we enable combat power," said Col. Gary Goldstone, 375th Air Mobility Wing commander. "As part of the Total Force Integration, this transition allows better use of resources and manpower to ensure we better accomplish the mission both at home and during contingency deployments." 

Senior Air Force leaders and commanders aren't the only ones who realize the benefits of Total Force Initiatives and associations such as the one here at Scott. "TFIs like this are going to be the future of the Air Force," said Booser. "Having Guard, Reserve, and Active Duty working together as one team allows such a valuable learning structure; everybody will share their experience, which will shrink the learning curve." 

The all Active Duty flight crew involved with the Sept. 9 flight expressed both excitement and a sense of appreciation for the significance of their inaugural flight. "For me, being the first boom to be part of this new venture is exciting," said Smith. "I feel so lucky that I get to bring my expertise to this assignment, while at the same time I look forward to what I am going to learn...from the booms at the 126th (ARW)." 

As with any new idea, Active Associations are still a work in progress. Due to the differences at each base, between each unit, and specific airframes, each association brings fresh challenges. "There will be some growing pains of course, but the cooperation we have received to try and incorporate both sets of rules has been great," said Mills. "This transition has (been) almost seamless. Everybody in the 126th (ARW) has reached out to me and the rest of the 906th (ARS) with a great attitude." 

Only time will tell how well the Active Association between the 126th ARW and the 906th ARS will reflect in the history books. However one thing remains clear, the future of the Air Force is now and dedicated men and women stand ready to make this, and every other association, successful and fulfill the Air Force mission to fly, fight and air, space, and cyberspace.