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News > Alaska civic leaders watch Reserve F-22 mission from 20,000 feet for the first time
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477 FG Civic Leader flight
Bill Behnke, 477th FG Honorary Commander and GCI senior vice president, looks out the window of an Oklahoma Air National Guard KC-135 at the F-22 Raptors flying just off the wing. The 477th FG hosted its first civic leader flight Jan. 5, allowing for community leaders to see the Reserve F-22 mission up close. (U.S. Air Force Reserve/Tech. Sgt. Dana Rosso)
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Alaska civic leaders watch Reserve F-22 mission from 20,000 feet for the first time

Posted 1/7/2013   Updated 1/7/2013 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Ashley Conner
477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

1/7/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- A group of Alaska civic leaders got to watch gas pass over Alaska terrain during the 477th Fighter Group's Unit Training Assembly weekend Jan. 5.

The group boarded a KC-135 from the 137th Air Refueling Wing, early Saturday morning and took turns crawling into the boom pod in the back of the plane to watch Chief Master Sgt. Kirk Brinegar, 137th ARW Boom operator, pass up to 10,000 lbs of fuel to the F-22s flown by Reserve Pilots assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron.

"We were very excited to have this group of civic leaders who provide so much support to the Air Force Reserve and all of Alaska's military join us on this flight," said Col. Tyler Otten, 477th Fighter Group commander. "Our Reservists live and work in Alaska and it is important for us to enable this group of important individuals to see Alaskan service members in action."

This was the first civic leader flight the 477th Fighter Group has hosted since the unit stood up in 2007. Among those on the flight was Bill Behnke, senior vice president, Strategic Initiatives at GCI, a telecommunications company serving Alaska and the 477th FG Honorary Commander since Jan. 2012.

"The civic leader flight was an excellent opportunity to personally experience and better understand the integration between fighters, tankers and intelligence-surveillance aircraft essential to effectively projecting American air superiority," said Behnke. "I was extremely impressed with the precision flying performed by the Raptor pilots, the boom operator and the KC-135 tanker crew. I came into this with a general understanding that tight formation flying was part of aerial refueling; however, I wasn't really aware of just how tight the tolerances were between the Raptor and the tanker in a refueling operation. The opportunity to actually lay in the "bed" witness a series of aerial refuelings was a truly incredible experience."

The Reserve UTA weekend is the opportunity for all the Reservists -- those who are full time as Air Reserve Technicians and those who are Traditional Reservists and serve one weekend a month -- to come together and train as a unit. During the week the full time ART pilots and maintainers integrate with the active duty 525th and 90th FS in all areas of the F-22 mission.

Phil Cochrane, vice president External Affairs, BP, and the 525th FS Honorary Commander, was part of the group who was able to witness air refueling just a few feet away.

"I have always thought what our Airmen do is special, but seeing air to air refueling up close has given me an even better appreciation for their amazing work," said Cochrane. "It was an incredible experience."

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