By Edward Cardenas
HARRISON TOWNSHIP (CBS Detroit) – High above the skies of northern Michigan, the men and women serving in the 191st Refueling Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base Thursday provided a pair of A-10 fighters an important service – midair refueling.
The squadron, which operates eight KC-135 Stratotankers, fly missions both domestically and internationally to provide in-flight refueling to military aircraft.
This can vary from jets training in the state, to bombers taking part in longer mission and even fighters in combat zones.
“The air refueling capability is what gives the air force its global reach,” said Michigan Air National Guard Maj. Todd Wasilewski. “If you are a soldier on the ground and there is an A-10 overhead keeping you safe, you want that A-10 there as long as possible. With air refueling, that’s how we are able to make that happen.”
The tankers are maintained and flown by the Michigan Air National Guard personnel at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County. The base, which has all five branches of the military stationed at the facility, also hosts the A-10 Thunderbolts which are part of the fighter squadron in the 127th Wing.
While the tankers were built-in the late 50s and early 60s, they have been updated with the latest in technology and new engines, each which can provide over 22,000 pounds of thrust.
During the flight Thursday, the tanker met the planes in the Garland Military Operations Area north of Grayling.
Nearly 20,000 feet above northern Michigan, the tanker jet loaded with fuel waited for a pair of A-10Thunderbolts. Out of the blue the silver fighter jets appeared beside the plane, and individually took their spot behind the plane to receive fuel. With a calm hand, a crew member lowers the refueling boom to transfer 5,000 pounds of fuel and allow the pilots to complete his mission.
This important service extends training domestically, but also is an important capability to have in war zones to keep planes in the air to complete their missions and protect ground troops.
“The men and women here at Selfridge are constantly deploying around the world,” Wasilewski added. “The training that we do here basically mirrors what we do overseas. You fight like you train.”
The tankers, fighters and other planes and equipment at the base will be on display and in the air during the Selfridge Open House and Air Show.
The event will be held Sept. 6 and 7 and will feature a variety of static displays in addition to performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and civilian performers. The event is free to attend and has free parking. For more information, visit the air show website.