Fifty years goes by fast, even for a Rhino

  • Published
  • By By Lt. Col. Noel Bradford
  • Commander, 905th Air Refueling Squadron
On Dec. 4, the 905th Air Refueling Squadron, also known as the Rhinos, flew its last sortie from Grand Forks Air Force Base. The KC-135 Stratotanker, tail number 60-0319, departed here for the last time, and its departure closed a 50 year chapter in the air refueling history of this base. Over the years, the KC-135 had been the only airframe to be continuously stationed at Grand Forks AFB, despite numerous other airframes and mission changes during that time; the mighty Stratotanker always had a presence on the ramp.

In May 1960, the 905th received its first KC-135 from the Boeing factory. Since that time, the squadron provided air refueling support in the Cold War, Vietnam, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Allied Forces, Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, and many other operations and exercises to name in between. The Rhinos have helped defeat communism, ensure the safe rescue of hostages in Columbia and off the coast of Somalia, along with enabling operations to defeat terrorism. Our Air Force cannot conduct normal daily global operations without air refueling; the Rhinos have always been an integral part of those operations. So, it is fitting that the 905th ARS are the bookends for this chapter in the base's history.

During the Thunder over the Red River Air Show in May, the Rhinos hosted a 50 year reunion for former squadron members. We were privileged to have 120 former members of the squadron come back to share their memories of Grand Forks and their time flying the KC-135. It was a special weekend for the current and former Rhinos, especially since this would be the last time we would meet at Grand Forks. Many stories were shared about sitting Strategic Air Command alert, "Young Tiger" operations in Vietnam, surviving a North Dakota winter, and the memories of friends lost through the years. All of the stories were about people and their interactions together. People are what make a place special and create fond memories that we all carry on to the next assignment.

So, as the current and former Rhinos say goodbye to the Warriors of the North, I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support through those 50 years. Air refueling is needed to execute our Air Force's global mission, and not one KC-135 would have left our ramp to support that mission without the support of every squadron and person at Grand Forks AFB. It is people that make the mission happen day in and day out. It was true in 1960, and is true today. The former Rhinos who attended our 50th reunion are a testament to this fact. The personal relationships you have forged in the cold of Grand Forks are priceless, and they will last into the future. All who attended the Rhino reunion witnessed that personal relationships survive a long time and all agreed that 50 years goes by fast, even for a Rhino.

Godspeed and thank you again for your support Warriors of the North.

Lead Rhino, Lt. Col. Noel Bradford, 905th ARS commander