Alert Bravo aircrew stands down after 10 years of alert missions

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Armando Vasquez
  • 108th Wing Public Affairs
After 10 years of providing a refueling bridge for contingency aircrafts flying over the North Atlantic Ocean en route to support Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, aircrew and maintenance personnel from the 108th Wing's Bravo Alert Mission flew their last air refueling mission July 28 in support of the North East Tanker Task Force.

Ethyl 55, the call sign for one of the alert aircrafts, provided more than 60,000 pounds of fuel to a deploying RC-135 on that final refueling mission.

The Bravo Alert Mission crew had been flying alert missions as part of the NETTF since July 2004, said Lt. Col. Timothy Burke, operations officer. The 108th Wing was one of four Air Guard units from four states that made up NETTF. The other units were the 101st Air Refueling Wing, Maine; 157th Air Refueling Wing, New Hampshire; and 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania.

The alert mission involved having an aircrew and maintenance personnel in an "on call" status, ready to show and fly 24 hours a day. Furthermore, the crews rotated every two to three days and took turns sitting alert over the holidays.

"It was very challenging to juggle schedules and cover the mission as people came on and off orders," said Burke. "Being a part of the mission meant having to plan everything around when I wouldn't be on alert, as I always had to plan to fly when on alert. This applied to everyone. We all fulfilled our responsibility to the unit by participating in unit deployments and TDY's, so often a break from the alert mission meant you were on the road away from your family."

Although the mission required stringent commitments from the crew, such as completing unit missions qualifications and training requirements during their days off, the alert mission had its rewarding moments. "One special mission required a short-notice refueling that was evacuating a burnt patient from Germany to Brooks in San Antonio," said Burke. "The 108th had the only tanker available so we launched, got them their fuel and they were able to continue on without stopping for fuel."

The 108th Wing's Bravo alert supported primarily OEF and OIF but also was utilized for Operations Noble Eagle, New Dawn and Unified Protector. The Alert team refueled almost every AR-capable aircraft in the U.S. Air Forces' inventory, from AC-130's at 10,000 feet over the middle of the Atlantic, to the USAF Thunderbirds.

Over the 10 years of supporting NETTF, the 108th Wing's Bravo Alert team's accomplishments were: 3,681 days of alert, flying 3,538 hours and offloading more than 63 million pounds of fuel. They were assigned with 1,818 missions and flew on 1,040 of them, compiling 580 days of temporary duty assignments.

Unfortunately, a combination of decrease funding and ops tempo forced the 108th Wing's Bravo alert to stand down after more than 3,600 days of continuous support.

"I have been privileged, and I think I can say that for all involved, to have been part of this mission," said Burke. "This mission was the perfect model for the Air National Guard to demonstrate to Air Mobility Command that separate units working in close cooperation, can give AMC the equivalent of an active duty KC-135 wing for just a fraction of the active duty cost."