Keeper of the Skies is a total team effort


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – You’ve seen them flying out of Wichita, and you’ve probably heard them too. The big KC-135 Stratotankers are flying missions anywhere the U.S. military needs fuel.

The KC-135 tankers refuel any aircraft in the U.S. and many of our allies. Some of those missions fly right out of Wichita and at times into dangerous areas.

“We have our tanker crews prosecuting ISIS targets every single day, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have tanker crews that are in Europe right now,” says Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Markusfeld.

RELATED LINK | Historical snapshot of the KC-135 Stratotanker

Markusfeld has been flying KC-135 Stratotankers for years.

“This is an incredible job. I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”

— Lt. Col. Joseph Markusfeld

“We plan for the worst, we hope for the best, and we watch world events,” says Markusfeld. “And we’ve tailored our capabilities to respond to any crisis that might come out worldwide.”

Markusfeld says he’s proud to be on a team that is mission ready at all times. He says that team includes some unsung heroes and that it takes more than just the pilots to move tankers anywhere across the world.

“I order parts for the aircraft,” said TSgt. Nadine Wiese.

Nadine is one of those who supports the mission at McConnell.

“We get orders from maintenance and we order parts to be able to support the aircraft.”

Another one of the team members is SrA Darrielle Adams, 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, who is on the fuel team.

“It makes me very proud that I have a very important job,” says Adams. “Personally, when I first got here, I was just refueling planes. But the longer I’ve been in, the more I realize how important this is.”

Adams says he continues to grow in his role.

Then there’s SSgt. Joshua Hood, in charge of petroleum and lubricants.

“Every time I put the uniform on it does instill a sense of pride. Being raised in Kansas since the age of five.”

A Wichita South graduate, Hood says his motivation is to support the mission.

Another team member on the team is mechanic, SrA Victoria Stout, with the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. She considers multitasking just another day at the office.

“I’m actually still a mechanic, I just help out in customer service when I can,” says Stout.

“We not only need to be prepared, we need to be ready to attack the mission and refuel the flight.”

— 1st Lt. Neil Ormerod

1st Lt. Neil Ormerod is a KC-135 pilot with the 350th Air Refueling Squadron “Red Falcons”.

“We just need to know that whatever is asked of us, we not only need to be prepared, we need to be ready to attack the mission and refuel the flight,” says Ormerod. “We spend a lot of time away from family and friends, but it’s worth it.”

Ormerod says it’s that team that makes his job happen. And it’s his grandfather that first taught him about teamwork.

“My grandfather is my biggest role model in the world. He was, is, just a hero in every form. And he was a Ball turret gunner in World War II,” says Ormerod. “He helped raise me. He is awesome. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. So patriotic. Happy to serve. Loved what he did.”

Other team members also get motivation every day from their family members.

“I’m a logistics planner. I work in installation deployment readiness, in the deployment control center. We are command and control for all deployments and strategic air lift,” says A1C Jessica Jewell with the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “My dad served in the Air Force for 24 years, and I grew up as a military brat. And, honestly, my dad? I’ve always been his number one fan, I’ve always been a daddy’s girl, and I just wanted to follow in his footsteps, make him proud and that’s why I’m here. Serve my country.”

Jewell says getting airmen on planes to deploy to all parts of the world is a constant challenge. But she says it’s the desire to serve her country and really make a difference that keeps her focused.

“And this is the first job that I’ve had where I actually feel like I’m serving a purpose,” says Jewell. “We all play our part. We all need each other. It’s pretty cliche’ to say but it’s true. We all need each other. It’s nerve-wracking (job) but I’ve got faith in my base and the military as a whole and that’s something that kind of eases my mind. I can’t think of any thing else I’d rather do.”

For Lt. Col. Markusfeld, he also has confidence the team will always have the planes, mission ready.

“What rattles around in my head is how fun is this? How amazing is this?” says Lt. Col. Markusfeld. “This is an incredible job. I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”

Lt. Col. Markusfeld also points out those KC-135 tankers will soon be flying out of McConnell, side-by-side with a new plane. The KC-46A Pegasus will also be stationed at McConnell.

RELATED LINK |  KC-46A Pegasus 

The KC-46A planes could be flying out of McConnell as soon as next spring. McConnell has a new hangar for at least three Pegasus planes, and it’s a project investment of $267 million.

“There’s a huge ramp-up to the KC-46, and the easiest analogy I can give to people they can understand is, think of a relay race,” says Lt. Colonel Markusfeld. “And people on the same team are running at the same speed on the track and the baton gets handed. That’s where we are right now. The Pegasus is beginning their run, and we are running full speed to them. At some point, we are both going to be running down the track together, and the baton is going to be passed off.”

It’s a new aircraft helping those at McConnell serve the military mission.

“Supporting our NATO partnerships, those are all McConnell-based crews,” said Markusfeld. “We’re ready. This is what we train for, this is what we’re prepared for and this is what we do.”

RELATED LINK | McConnell Air Force Base

KC-46A Pegasus Features

KC-46A Pegasus Milestones

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