Utah ANG engages in Air Force Week events

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin
  • 151st ARW/PA
As 16 Utah mayors and city council members pace the floor of the KC-135 Stratotanker, the first flock of F-15 fighter jets arrive. One jet zooms up and paces alongside the KC-135 like a Lamborghini taunting a semi truck. Another jet sprints nimbly in under the refueling tanker the way a Rolls-Royce might approach a full-service gas station.

If luxury cars had the capacity to refuel from a tanker truck drive-by in the same fashion a fighter jet refuels from a tanker jet, then perhaps the spectacle these civic leaders are about to behold wouldn't be quite so impressive. However, this is only one of the unique jobs the Utah Air National Guard performs every day. And on June 2, these 16 civic leaders experienced a taste of the Guard's unique mission on a KC-135 orientation flight during Salt Lake City's Air Force Week June 1 to 7.

Salt Lake City was one of only three cities across the nation selected to host the 2009 AF Week festivities showcasing America's Airmen. The purpose of AF Week is to provide an opportunity for the local community to meet the dedicated men and women of the U.S. Air Force. The Utah ANG assisted Hill Air Force Base in hosting the city-wide celebrations by providing aircraft and aircrews for flyover and civic leader events, as well as providing static and equipment displays at Pioneer Park, Hill AFB and other venues throughout the Wasatch Front.

During "Our Nation's Defenders Showcase" at Pioneer Park, the ANG supplied a recruiter's station and two static displays: a low-profile boom truck that the 130th Electronic Installation Squadron uses to set up power lines, and a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability demonstration tent. The two displays showcased the ANG's ability to respond during a natural disaster to quickly restore crucial communication lines.

In addition to the displays, the 151st Air Refueling Wing's KC-135 Stratotankers participated in several flyover events including a Salt Lake Bees baseball game at Franklin Covey Field June 1, a Real soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium June 6 and a patriotic concert at the SilverLake Amphitheater June 6.

The Air Guard also hosted KC-135 static displays at Hill AFB's Open House June 6 to 7. During the show the public was able to tour two types of Stratotankers, an older E model and the current R model.

"We wanted to bring the R model to the show to give people a sense of what we're flying so they can learn about what the Guard does," said Capt. Zachery M. Love, a pilot with the 191st Air Refueling Squadron. "People enter [the display] not realizing this plane refuels other planes, but they leave knowing that."

But perhaps the most impressive event of all was the KC-135R model in flight during the air refueling mission with the local mayors June 2.

Two by two the mayors dropped below deck into the boom pod during their orientation flight. They observed the operation by peering out the pod window at the rear of the Stratotanker as eight thirsty F-15Es from the Oregon and Idaho Air Guard attached to fill up with needed fuel. They watched lying flat on their stomachs, one flanking each side of Tech. Sgt. Tony Kalakis, the flight's boom operator, who said it was fun to have an audience while doing his job.

"It's the best office window view in the world to be a boom operator," added Sergeant Kalakis.

Michael W. Daniels, the mayor of Pleasant Grove, saw the first jet to arrive during the flight and said he was impressed the way it came right up, pulled in, and "boom it was done."

"I thought it was incredible the way the pilots and boom operator have to line up at 450 miles per hour to attach to the boom," he said.

This year's AF Week culminated with an aerial demonstration by the world-famous Thunderbirds at Hill AFB. The crowds cheered as the F-16s showed off their precision skills. With all of the flyovers, static displays and events, this year's event was quite a success for the Utah Air Guard. For more information on AF Week, visit www.airforceweek.af.mil.