UK first responders’ incentive flight gives insight into how their role contributes to mission

  • Published
  • By Karen Abeyasekere
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Three Ministry of Defence firefighters from Royal Air Force Mildenhall had the chance to witness air refueling during an incentive flight on a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft March 3, 2021.

David Ives, Steve Tipler and Barry Clark, all 100th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters, regularly provide emergency response to aircraft here including C-135s, MC-130J Commando II aircraft and CV-22 Osprey aircraft.

“We become a better force when we have collective shared interests and understanding,” said. Col. Troy Pananon, 100th ARW commander. “Our firefighters are highly trained and clearly understand their role to protect the community and respond to emergency aircraft when called upon. It is imperative to ensure they understand flying operations from the aviator perspective, in order to better facilitate their skills to support and respond to our aircraft and aircrew members.”

Pananon explained that providing an incentive flight to some of the civilian firefighters helps build valuable relationships and more team cohesion.

“We need firefighters to understand or observe our duties, just as much as our aviators need to understand, discuss and observe the roles and responsibilities of our firefighters,” he said. “When there is a shared perspective, we strengthen the mutual respect and trust between the teams, thereby increasing performance in the event of an emergency.”

Ives has been an MoD firefighter for 24 years, 20 years of which were spent at RAF Mildenhall. He officially retired from service March 12, 2021.

“It was my first time on a KC-135 and it was fascinating to see how the whole process works,” he remarked. “I had no idea that so much goes into all of it, and I was especially surprised at how much went into the preflight checks prior to takeoff.”

The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force, also providing support to other U.S. Department of Defense and allied nations’ aircraft. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 322,500 pounds and a maximum transfer fuel load of 200,000 pounds. The 100th ARW makes a continuous effort to improve its defense capabilities to ensure an advantage in resiliency, protect its assets and personnel, and support its allies and partnerships.

“Seeing everything that close was amazing, there are no words to fully describe the feeling,” exclaimed Ives. “I was in awe of the abilities that the pilots and boom operators have, being able to get that close and do it safely. As a firefighter I’m part of the mission, but this experience gave me the opportunity to see how we as first responders tie into the refueling mission. I realized I’m one small cog among many others in one large machine, and I was able to see it all work together.”