90th EARS takes Airmen from five squadrons to form one team

Senior Airman Thomas Nance puts up an insulation panel inside of a plane on Sept. 5. Airman Nance is part of the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

Senior Airman Thomas Nance puts up an insulation panel inside of a plane on Sept. 5. Airman Nance is part of the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. (U.S. AIr Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

Capt. Jason Sovers checks the instruments during a preflight inspection Sept. 5. Captain Sovers is a pilot from RAF Mildenhall, England, currently attached to the 90th EARS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

Capt. Jason Sovers checks the instruments during a preflight inspection Sept. 5. Captain Sovers is a pilot from RAF Mildenhall, England, currently attached to the 90th EARS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

Members of the 90th EARS talk about their preflight inspection before taking off on a mission Sept. 5. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

Members of the 90th EARS talk about their preflight inspection before taking off on a mission Sept. 5. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Lipscomb)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Most Airmen at the "Lik" are here on 15-month or two-year tours, however, one vital cog on Team Incirlik calls Turkey home for a relatively short amount of time. 

Members of the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron support the Iraqi and Enduring Freedom air bridge by refueling C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-5 Galaxys going into Afghanistan and coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq, supplying and resupplying troops downrange. Currently, the unit is comprised of active-duty Airmen from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., McConnell AFB, Kan., and RAF Mildenhall England, in addition to Guardsmen from the Kansas ANG and Reservists from March AFB, Calif. The presence of Air National Guard, Reserve and active-duty Airmen makes this squadron truly unique. 

"We're definitely a rainbow operation," said Lt. Col. Jeff Sheppard, 90th EARS commander. "We literally created a unit from scratch. There are very few people assigned to the squadron that I've worked with before." 

Taking Airmen from at least five different bases and forming one team presented some challenges. 

"When you come together for a brand new operation there are no known quantities or entities," said Lt. Col. Eric Brumskill, 90th EARS director of operations. "The way different crews do things, there's no common ground when you've never met two-thirds of the folks you're working with." 

While there were challenges at first, it wasn't long before the advantages of the combined team became evident. 

"There's no stagnation. You get fresh ideas and thoughts and different ranges of experience with the guard guys," said Colonel Brumskill. "You learn new techniques and new ways to do business." 

"It reinforces the 'one team, one fight' concept. At our homestations it's easy to get into a 'stovepipe' where our primary focus is on working with the people and in the environment we're familiar and comfortable with," said Colonel Sheppard. "Here, where we have no choice but to integrate, we're reminded that no matter where you're stationed or where you came from, we're all in the Air Force and have the same mission in the end." 

That mission here is ensuring cargo planes have the necessary fuel to deliver vital supplies to Airmen downrange. 

"We're definitely part of a much larger picture," said Colonel Brumskill. "When we refuel C-17s bringing supplies to Iraq, we enable troops to keep accomplishing their mission."
Keeping the unit's KC-135 Stratotankers mission ready is a tall task, but one the 90th EARS maintainers have embraced. 

"It's a round-the-clock operation. We don't stop for anything," said Colonel Sheppard. "The maintainers work until they drop, not because they have to, but because that's the type of attitude they have." 

"Our guys have done a fabulous job," said Capt. Joseph Cole, 90th EARS maintenance officer in charge. "These people have gone the extra mile to give the aircrew a good jet to fly." 

While the members of the 90th EARS are deployed here for a short time, they feel totally integrated into the mission of Incirlik. 

"The host wing has been tremendously supportive, you would never know that we were here TDY," said Colonel Sheppard. "We've gotten everything we've needed. We really feel like part of the team at Incirlik." 

Since Aug. 1, the 90th EARS has flown 77 sorties, delivering 5.7 million pounds of fuel, in support of 46 Operation Enduring Freedom and 31 Operation Iraqi Freedom missions.