Dec 4th, 2017

Tanker Trip to the Island of Guam I

Thirty years ago this Fall, I was part of an unforgettable Tanker Trip to Guam.  I want to share those adventures in a multiple part blog.

I don’t know exactly why, but I like to stop and think back as to what I was doing 10, 20, 30 and sometimes 40 years ago.  The Lord has blessed me with a good memory, so I am able to do that sort of thing.  This Fall has been an easy 30 year memory as it was my most memorable TDY in the KC-135A.

A quick definition of some terms.  A TDY is military lingo for Temporary Duty and as far as I know it is used in all branches of the service.  Temporary Duty is an assignment away from one’s normal duty station (in this case, Fairchild AFB) for six months or less.  Hence the “temporary” label.

The KC-135A designates the Boeing 707 air refueling plane developed in the late 1950s under orders by Strategic Air Command’s Chief, the legendary Curtis Lemay.  The Air National Guard later received KC-135E (to designate a newer turbofan engine with thrust reversers).

It was 1987, the primary role of the Strategic Air Command was for B-52 bombers and KC-135s to be ready on nuclear alert duty 24/7 365.  This was designed to dissuade the Soviets from launching a first strike on the US.

One of the highlights of the year was for a tanker aircrew to be selected for a TDY at one of the Tanker Task Forces.  There were three at the time.  The European Tanker Task Force in RAF Mildenhall, England.  The Alaskan Tanker Task Force stationed out of Eielson AFB in Fairbanks Alaska. Finally what I, and many others, considered the plum assignment, The Pacific Tanker Task Force (PTTF) in Guam.  The crème de la crème was getting a PTTF assignment in the middle of the winter.  Six weeks in Guam in the dead of winter beat the heck out of six weeks in the snow.

The role of the Tanker Task Forces was to help escort fighters, transports and bombers “across the pond”, meaning over the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean.  They were also used to help other aircraft stationed in that theater accomplish their mission.  By utilizing “temporary” aircraft and crews, the Air Force saved the expense of housing an entire squadron of planes, with their maintenance and dependents on a permanent basis overseas.

My first year in my tanker unit, I did not get a Tanker Task Force Assignment.  By my second year, I was chomping at the bit.  Finally, my time came.  September 1987 my crew and I set off.  I will explain the beginning of the adventure in my next installment.