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News > Tankers deploy to Hungary, Bulgaria for Operation Noble Endeavor
Tankers deploy to Hungary, Bulgaria for Operation Noble Endeavor

Posted 4/2/2008   Updated 4/2/2008 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
323rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

4/2/2008 - CAMPIA TURZII, Romania -- Air security depends on much more than just fighters. Among other things, it also requires the ability to refuel those airborne fighters.

That's where the KC-135R Stratotankers from U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Mobility Command deployed to Hungary and Bulgaria come in. The deployed units are providing air refueling to aircraft supporting the NATO summit. The Romanian-led operation is dedicated to policing the skies over Bucharest during the summit as well as other support missions April 2-4.

More than 200 Airmen have deployed to support the air refueling mission at both locations. And, according to the 398th Air Expeditionary Group commander, the bilateral cooperation toward the mission has been critical to their readiness.

"Due to outstanding support from the American Embassy staff in Budapest,
we have worked very closely here with the Hungarian civilian authorities
who run the airport and have developed a great working relationship with
them," said Lt. Col. Jim Crutchfield, 398th AEG commander.

"At Burgas, they are working with both military and civilian authorities to make things happen. We are getting great cooperation in both countries and further developing NATO ties with these important allies."

The Stratotanker, which is capable of carrying 200,000 pounds of fuel, enhances the time fighters and other aircraft can stay aloft. The jet also has enough cargo room for six pallets or 37 passengers, enhancing the Air Force missions of Global Reach and Global Power.

All the maintenance on the jets in Budapest is accomplished by Airmen deployed from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England, according to Capt. Brian Vallese, 712th EAS maintenance operations officer. So far, they have seen few obstacles, but are always on vigilant watch for maintenance complications.

"A mission of this caliber is why we train at home station," Captain Vallese said. "My maintainers and I look forward to the opportunity to support such a significant event which brings our NATO allies together."

Colonel Crutchfield said the tanker mission is just one of many critical parts to the mission supporting the summit. As a lean forward-deployed unit, he relies on everyone from aircrew to contracting to maintenance. He said he's thankful for the professionalism and flexibility of all of the Airmen involved in the refueling operation. 

"They know it is very important to do this well and to be good ambassadors for the U.S. Air Force."

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