JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
One of the few common threads interwoven between the twenty-six nations and more than 200 aircraft participating in Rim of the Pacific 2016 is the need for fuel; a lot of it.
This is where Citizen Airmen from 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, come in to play.
“When it comes to the air piece of RIMPAC, we are here to ensure aircraft have the fuel they need to complete their mission,” said U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Jeff Milburn, detachment commander for the 465th Air Refueling Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base.
The crews of the 465th ARS fly and operate the KC-135R Stratotanker. The KC-135 is not only capable of conducting aerial refueling; it can also carry cargo, personnel and equipment. For mid-air refueling it can carry more than 150,000 pounds of transfer fuel.
“The sights, sounds and sheer scale of RIMPAC are unlike any military exercise in the world,” said Milburn. “Outside of the old-style operational readiness exercises, RIMPAC is one of the few opportunities we have to deploy operations, maintainers and support staff simultaneously.”
RIMPAC is held from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. It is the world's largest international maritime exercise. Participating 507th ARW personnel are working out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
“Unlike the ORE, RIMPAC provides our Airmen the chance to work with other branches, aircraft and nations,” Milburn added.
The 507th ARW mission just isn’t all about flying. The bulk of work actually happens on the ground.
“The various systems in the aircraft are designed to be very efficient, but they have been in operation for a while and eventually things break or malfunction,” said Staff Sgt. Kurt Weisel, an aircraft electrician with 507th Maintenance Squadron. “Being an aircraft electrician is very interesting, because it gives me a chance to be involved in all the systems and solutions.”
The Stratotanker has been in use by the U.S. Air Force for more than 50 years, and the airframe is a military version of the civilian Boeing 707 passenger jet.
Weisel said he takes pride in being part of the refueling mission and keeping the jets in operation.
“Getting to come to RIMPAC is a privilege, and I think the fact the 507th ARW keeps getting invited back to provide the Navy air boss the logistical support they need speaks to how well we integrate with active duty and other branches,” said Weisel. “It’s nice to be appreciated.”
RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.