Support Salvation Army California Wildfire Relief

Up in the air with the Illinois National Guard on refueling run

SOMEWHERE OVER WISCONSIN (KTVI) – The day after the terrorist attack in Manchester, England, airmen at Scott Air Force Base participated in a training mission which is used daily in the war on terror.

The Illinois Air National Guard refuels military planes midair around the world. They have a motto: anytime, anywhere.

Tuesday’s mission was taking off and flying north over Wisconsin, the Air Force has more than 400 KC 135 tankers. The Illinois Air National Guard has nine of them.

The tankers can hold 30,000 gallons of fuel in tanks under the floor and in the wings of the plane.

“Myself, as well as everyone in my unit, has supported everything out in the desert with the fight against ISIS; we have an ongoing mission all over the world,” said Col. Tom Jackson.

The tankers ensure military aircraft get overseas quickly to any crisis. A mission that would normally take fifteen hours is cut down to 10 when planes refuel in midair and don’t have to land.

“We’re able to get them there and back with multiple refuelings,” Jackson said.

Boom operator Senior Airmen Alberto Ayala works in the back of the plane to refuel an F-16. It was only 30 feet away and traveling at 500 miles an hour. The airman spent six months training for this.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Ayala said. “You want to be very precise you don’t want to scratch an aircraft or dent it or break any antennas off.”

More than 800 gallons of fuel can be pumped from the jet to the tanker in a minute.

Major Viveca Lane, the co-pilot, had a message for Americans: the war goes on; don’t forget the warriors.

“I just want people to know we’re still out here, we’re fighting the good fight, and we appreciate all the support we get on the home front,” she said.