• Published
  • By 1st Lt. Micah Campbell
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 137th Air Refueling Wing closed a chapter in its history by performing the last KC-135  Stratotanker air refueling mission prior to joining  Air Force Special Operations Command, June 30, 2015.

The training mission, call sign Sooner 26, was conducted by aircrew from the 185th Air Refueling Squadron and included two members of the original flight crew from the inaugural KC-135 mission eight years ago.

"When I saw the last flight scheduled, I knew I had to be a part of it," said Lt. Col. Mark Hole, tanker detachment commander, 185 ARS.

As one of the first pilots to fly the KC-135, Hole said he felt a strong connection to the aircraft and the historic significance of the mission. He was not alone.

"I was actually the first one to go to school to be a boom operator in 2006," said Master Sgt. Ty Taylor, 137th Operations Group NCO in charge of training.

For Taylor, the desire to bring closure to an era was irresistible, he said. Speaking of the differences between his former position as an instructor load master on the C-130 Hercules and his current position as a boom operator Taylor said, "It's a lot more responsibility on you to keep from damaging other aircraft [while] keeping your aircraft safe flying at close distances."

Both Taylor and Hole understand the significance of the KC-135's mission. Taylor specifically remembers refueling fighter aircraft that returned repeatedly after assisting troops engaged in combat operations.

"All the guys that fly fighters, B-1's, AWACS, and all of those people that are involved in taking the fight to the bad guys on the ground and keeping our troops safe cannot do that without the tanker," Hole said, adding to Taylor's recollection.

During the eight years that the wing conducted air refueling operations, they amassed more than 13,500 flying hours while sharing flight operations with the 507th Air Refueling Wing, said Hole. These numbers, added to the wing's stellar accident-free record accumulated over the previous 30 years flying C-130's, total to more than 206,000 accident-free hours.

"I think we proved that we could transition fast and proved again our unit's perseverance, resilience, and adaptability," said Hole. "That will serve us well in this next challenge and the challenge that's likely to follow after that."

The final KC-135 mission refueled a pair of MC-130J Combat Talons from the 58th Special Operations Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The symbolism of this mission seemed appropriate as it represents the C-130 past, the KC-135 present and the special operations future by paying tribute to the wing's heritage and serving as a symbol for its future success.