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Guard, Reserve join forces to outrun Hurricane Irma

Members of the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, stand on the flight line in front of a 459th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 9, 2017. Aircrews from the 459th ARW picked up the guardsmen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, earlier in the day due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brent A. Skeen)

Members of the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, stand on the flight line in front of a 459th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 9, 2017. Aircrews from the 459th ARW picked up the guardsmen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, earlier in the day due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brent A. Skeen)

Members of the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, look out the door of a 459th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 9, 2017.  Aircrews from the 459th ARW picked up the guardsmen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, earlier in the day due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brent A. Skeen)

Members of the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard, look out the door of a 459th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 9, 2017. Aircrews from the 459th ARW picked up the guardsmen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, earlier in the day due to the threat of Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brent A. Skeen)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Although not faced directly with Hurricane Irma’s dangerous effects, Airmen with the 459th Air Refueling Wing here had a positive impact on their National Guard counterparts who were in the storm’s path.

Prior to the monthly unit training assembly weekend, aircraft maintainers from the 459th ARW were preparing three of its KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft for a routine training mission when they received orders to prepare two planes for a special mission to Florida.

Acting fast, they reassigned one plane from the training mission to go along with another of their KC-135s to the coastal state.

“When we were notified about this airlift requirement, it was already 5:30 p.m. on a Friday prior to a UTA,” said Col. Roger Law, 459th Maintenance Group commander. “It was really between the 459th Maintenance Group, the 459th Operations Group and some inspiration from the boss, of course, to really coordinate this, so we had a plan that was executable. You can’t get any better than that.”

Prior to Hurricane Irma gathering strength in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, 55 members of a pre-positioned advanced team from the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing were busy preparing for an upcoming mission at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But the mission changed when Irma became an impending threat to the guardsmen’s safety.

“We have a lot of great maintainers and support personnel who always rise to these types of challenges,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michel Jackson, flight superintendent at the 459th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Jackson said last-minute coordination and communication between the 756th Air Refueling Squadron and the 459th AMXS were needed to develop and execute a successful plan. All Airmen involved should be extremely proud of their tremendous effort, he added.
The 113th Wing reached out to their ramp neighbor, the 459th, for assistance evacuating their stranded personnel ahead of the hurricane. The 459th’s KC-135s are primarily used for air refueling, but can also be configured to transport passengers and cargo.

“This builds the trust between the Guard and Reserve, and it does of course reinforce one team, one fight. But beyond that, it also shows that we can count on each other when there is a situation that may not require perfect planning,” Law said. “These guys were able to come home safely, that’s number one. The air crew flew safely – you can’t beat that. I’m proud of them; they did a great job.”

“It feels good to help anyone out,” said Tech. Sgt. Tom Conroy, crew chief, 459th AMXS. “If they need a ride, we’ll go and pick them up because I’m sure they’d do the same thing for us.”