Team Mildenhall continues support of Operation Juniper Micron

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Mendez
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Team Mildenhall is recognizing the one year anniversary of their exclusive support of Operation Juniper Micron, Morón Air Base, Spain.

Originally a partnership with U.S. Air Mobility Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa officially took full ownership of U.S. Air Force OJM support in 2020, making the 100th Air Refueling Wing the sole KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft support.

OJM is the name given to U.S. operations to support French combat operations in Africa. The ongoing support provided to the French’s anti-insurgent and counterterrorism operations is vital to the security and stability of the region.

“Making OJM an enduring mission of the 100th has greatly enhanced the continuity of operations at Morón,” said Master Sgt. R. Chris King, 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron superintendent. “In the past, swapping out every six months with another unit exposed challenges and deficiencies with operations. The proximity of Mildenhall to Morón provides us a big advantage when it comes to support.  Aircraft parts, equipment, and personnel can be quickly dispatched to fix virtually any issues that may arise that can’t be fixed with the resources at Morón.”

In February 2020, Team Mildenhall deployed two KC-135s and more than 50 Airmen in support of the French-led operation, making the 100th the sole KC-135 provider for OJM. Since then, the 351st EARS has flown 204 sorties for a total of 1,800 hours and offloaded more than six million pounds of fuel out of Morón.

The fuel directly enables French air force fighter aircraft to support ground forces. Due to security reasons, fighter aircraft are based at airfields far from ground operations and the KC-135s ensure French aviators have the fuel in order to safely and effectively accomplish their mission.

“French combat aircraft are dependent on in-flight refueling to accomplish their mission,” said King. “French air assets originate a considerable distance from their working area and burn a large amount of their fuel just to reach the area. Providing the ‘gas station in the sky’ greatly enhances on-station capability and operational productivity of those assets.”

The U.S. Air Force has been providing air refueling and airlift support to French operations in Mali and North Africa since 2013 to combat militant and insurgent forces in the area. Initial support for OJM stemmed from the United Nations Security Council authorizing the deployment of an African-led peacekeeping force in December 2012.

Alongside the 351st EARS, the 496th Air Base Squadron has ensured the continued success of OJM operations by providing necessary base services including lodging, fitness services and infrastructure support.

“Since arriving here, I’ve been very impressed with the support we’ve received from the 496th ABS,” continued King. “The 496th has been great in providing comfortable lodging, good food and fitness facilities. They have made us feel at home and truly show an interest and concern for our well-being. Everyone from logistics and civil engineers, to communications, contracting and airfield management, have been great and treat us like we are part of the team here at Morón.”

The location of Morón is of valuable strategic importance to the mission. The closer proximity to French aircraft and longer runway shortens a majority of KC-135 flights to under 10 hours and enables a significantly larger fuel offload capability.

“It has been phenomenal to watch over 20 Air Force specialty codes come together to work in unison on a shared goal,” said Maj. Jace Azevedo, 351st EARS commander. “When we are tasked with a mission, there is a laser-like focus among all members of the 351 EARS to successfully complete the mission. Being a part of a group of individuals who have come together to form a strong team that fosters growth is incredibly special!”

In conjunction with the invaluable 496th Air Base Squadron, the 351st EARS and 100th ARW are able to continue to provide a ready force and operate a strategic forward base, projecting airpower through unrivaled air refueling across Europe and Africa.