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340th EARS takes tanker frenzy in stride

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- When it comes to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at this forward deployed location, passing gas isn’t considered rude, in fact it’s encouraged. 

After a short notice ramp closure at another deployed location, six KC- 35 Stratotankers and three KC- 10 Extender air refueling aircraft, also known as tankers, made this location their overnight home Nov. 14. According to Grand Forks Air Force Base’s Maj. Majewski, then deployed as the 340 EARS Operations Officer, the squadron was worth its weight in fuel Nov. 15. 

“About 74 percent of all gas in the AOR took off from this base,” he said. “We conducted 70 percent more flights that day from here than on a normal day for us. It was truly amazing.” 

The outstanding accomplishments of the refueling squadron during this hectic time came as no surprise to one person in particular. 

“The troops fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom count on our close air support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said Brig. Gen. (sel) Ted Kresge, 379 AEW Commander. “That means air refueling, and lots of it. Our tanker crews and maintainers are spending half their lives in this AOR because they’re critical to winning this war. They are my heroes.” 

The 340 EARS had the responsibility of “catching” each and every crew throughout the night. The operations staff also had the task of building all additional nine flying packages for the next day’s sorties. Successfully catching the extra aircraft and preparing them for a return flight in such a short amount of time was a complete team
effort, according to Major Majewski. 

“From the maintainers on the flightline to flight crews getting a good night’s rest thanks to the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, everyone came together and took care of business,” he said. 

Receiving the tankers on Nov. 14 and ensuring a successful departure on Nov. 15 was a tremendous task, but nothing the maintainers couldn’t handle said Grand Forks’ Capt. Jason Schafer, the deployed 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Officer-in-Charge. 

“We only had about two to three hours to prepare for the aircraft to arrive, and our normal operations weren’t stopping.” he said. “But our maintainers are top-notch professionals
and the entire event went off better than I ever could have expected.” 

The initial concern was whether or not the base had enough ramp space to accommodate the extra aircraft, however the swift thinking and vast experience of the 340 AMU production supervisors came to the rescue. 

“Coordination made it all happen” said Captain Schafer. “We maintained constant contact with the 340 EARS staff and various base agencies here such as airfield management to pull this off. Our production supervisors are consummate veterans. They made it look easy.”