90th EARS a force multiplier in air-to-air fueling
By Senior Airman Anthony J. Hyatt, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 22, 2011
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- By definition, force multiplier means a capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment. That is exactly what the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron does at Incirlik.
The 90th EARS, a total-force team consisting of nearly 100 active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen, fly sorties to refuel C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft coming in and out of the area of operations.
This squadron includes aircrew, maintainers, administrators, intelligence, life support and logistics - - allowing them to be self sufficient.
The mission actually begins at the 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., which is Air Mobility Command's execution arm for providing America's Global Reach. The TACC plans, schedules and directs a fleet of more than 1,300 mobility aircraft in support of combat delivery and strategic airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuations operations around the world.
"TACC is where everything starts for the 90th. They schedule the mission, tell us how much fuel is needed and do our flight plans," said Lt. Col. Barry Jones, 90th EARS commander. "From there, we take it out of the system, translate it to our schedule and our schedulers will put a crew against the missions that are tasked."
In addition to all the planning, rest must be added into the equation. Aircrews, which are normally two pilots and a boom operator, have to rest for 12 hours before a mission, according to Jones.
With Incirlik's strategic location, the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft don't have to travel far to refuel other aircraft. Most refueling occurs over the Black Sea, north of Turkey, Jones said.
Anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 pounds of fuel can be transferred during an air-to-air refueling mission.
Jones labeled the 90th EARS as a 'force multiplier,' as it enables C-17s and C-5s to land and offload cargo at downrange locations without having to land for refueling, which ultimately speeds up the process and reduces the time the C-17s or C-5s are on the ground.
"The most gratifying part of my job is being a part of that extension - - that one fluid motion, which supports troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Tech. Sgt. Mark McIntosh, a 90th EARS boom operator.
McIntosh, who has been in the career field for 23 years and has logged more than 6,000 flight hours, states that the most difficult part about his job is the actual refueling part.
Air-to-air refueling can occur between aircrafts flying at approximately 300 mph and weather can play a big role in the process.
Receivers, tools that transfer fuel from one aircraft to another, can move around in bad weather, and it can be challenging to air refuel during turbulence, said McIntosh.
In 2010, the 90th EARS completed 806 operational missions, offloaded more than 60 million pounds of fuel and logged more than 2,198 flight hours.
"Everyone at Incirlik is the key to success of the 90th EARS," said Jones.
From the workers at the dining facility and the transportation personnel to the schedulers and maintainers of the 90th EARS, everyone at Incirlik contributes to this critical mission of air-to-air refueling.