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In-flight evaluations are the standard for KC-135

Master Sgt. Timothy Molder, boom operator with the 191st Air Refueling Squadron, manages the controls on a KC-135, preparing to refuel a KC-10 from Travis Air Force Base April 9, 2013.  (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Emily Hulse/Released)

Master Sgt. Timothy Molder, boom operator with the 191st Air Refueling Squadron, manages the controls on a KC-135, preparing to refuel a KC-10 from Travis Air Force Base April 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Emily Hulse/Released)

A KC-135 with the Utah Air National Guard 151st Air Refueling Wing refuels a KC-10 from Travis Air Force Base April 9, 2013.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by A1C Emily Hulse/Released)

A KC-135 with the Utah Air National Guard 151st Air Refueling Wing refuels a KC-10 from Travis Air Force Base April 9, 2013. (U.S. Air Force Photo by A1C Emily Hulse/Released)

SALT LAKE CITY -- Inspections in the Air Force are a necessary part of our jobs from the cooks in the dining facility to the pilots in the air and everyone in between. For the boom operators in the 191st Air Refueling Squadron inspections are especially important. Inspections are how the military proves that it is mission ready.

According to Master Sgt. Timothy Molder, KC-135 boom operator with the 191st Air Refueling Squadron, the Standard Evaluation program, or Stan/Eval, is designed to test air crew skills and knowledge through a variety of written and practical examinations every 18 months.

The KC-135 is an aerial refueling platform capable of refueling a wide variety of aircraft for both the United States and its allies mid-air, day or night. It takes a minimum of three crew members to perform the aerial refueling mission, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator.

"When we are refueling someone we can't see the jet in the back of the plane. The boom operator is our eyes," said KC-135 pilot, Major Zac Love with the 151st Air Refueling Wing.

Molder recently underwent his check ride to complete the Stan/Eval requirements. For his evaluation he was tasked with refueling a KC-10 aircraft at 28,000 feet.

Senior Master Sgt. James Zaelit is in charge of conducting Stan/Eval testing for the boom operators in the 191st ARS. During Molder's check ride, Zaelit watched to make sure Molder followed proper procedures, adhered to checklists and operated safely.

According to Molder, aerial refueling is a complicated and challenging undertaking. Both aircraft have to precisely match speed and fly within 20 feet of one another for a long enough period of time that the required amount of jet fuel is transferred from one aircraft to another.

The larger the receiving aircraft is then the larger the amount of air being pushed in front of it.

"Large jets can be challenging to refuel because they have a large bow wave that makes our jet unstable," said Molder.

After several successful contacts with the receiving aircraft, Zaelit pronounced Molder to be proficient and skilled enough to continue his job as a boom operator on a KC-135 aircraft.