351st named best ARS in Air Force

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

The 2020 Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Trophy for best performing air refueling squadron in the U.S. Air Force has been awarded to the 351st Air Refueling Squadron, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, May 7.

Since the award’s inception, it has only been won by an overseas squadron twice; the 351st ARS made history in 2014 as the first overseas unit to be named the most outstanding air refueling squadron in the Air Force.

“In the midst of a global pandemic and strict U.K. lockdown, the men and women of the 351st ARS stepped up and answered the nation’s call, conducting operations at a record pace,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Ferdinandsen, 351st ARS commander. “We flew the most high priority Joint Chiefs of Staff missions of any other tanker unit in the Air Force.”

During 2020, the squadron supported and refueled more than 3,600 U.S. and NATO aircraft during approximately 1,500 flights. The squadron also continued their support of operation Juniper Micron, leading more than 150 missions in support of 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.

The 351st ARS surpassed 59 other active duty, Guard and Reserve air refueling squadrons across the Air Force for the honor.

“As the sole tanker unit for two of the largest areas of responsibility in the world, this squadron consistently excels in a dynamic, high-pressure environment, driven by many no-notice high priority taskings,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jon Adams, 351st ARS superintendent. “These missions range from Presidential-directed support missions, to routine aerial refueling training missions, but have also included aeromedical evacuations in Africa, search and rescue operations, high profile intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support, special airlift missions and NATO air refueling support.”

The squadron increased their flying hour rate 27%, despite COVID-19 constraints and had the highest tanker flying hour program. The squadron completed over 12,000 flying events in the simulator, increasing simulator time by 350%, the highest KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft simulator time ever recorded.

“This was a team effort that not only took our active-duty Airmen leaning forward to answer the call in the middle of a global pandemic, but an amazing spouses group stepping in to provide crucial support to our Airmen in need,” said Ferdinandsen.

Throughout the year, the squadron supplied over 180 meals and support visits to 47 new Airmen and their families who arrived in the U.K. and entered the 14-day lockdown period. Spouses delivered meals, hand-crafted masks, led resiliency events and provided mental, physical, social and spiritual support.

“Our entire team comes together to orchestrate these missions 24/7; from SARM, to the medical personnel, to the aircrew, this feat could not have been accomplished without everyone’s hard work and dedication,” added Adams.

The 100th Maintenance Group also played an invaluable support role in securing the win for the 351st.

“We would not be here without the amazing support of our Bloody Hundredth maintainers who ensure we keep the oldest KC-135 Stratotanker fleet in the inventory up and flying,” said Ferdinandsen.

The squadron is grateful for the operations, maintenance and support relationship that ensures the safety and success of the 100th Air Refueling Wing’s mission of providing a ready force and strategic forward base, projecting airpower through unrivaled air refueling across Europe and Africa.

“What makes me most proud about this win is the nod to our amazing heritage and culture,” concluded Ferdinandsen. “The greatest generation of Airmen who started the Bloody Hundredth legacy during World War II, about an hour away at Thorpe Abbots, would be proud of our Airmen who continue to carry the torch forward. The legacy lives on!”