FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Eielson Air Force Base is home to thousands of airmen and other military personnel, including the 168th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard. One of the main missions of these guardsmen is Air Refueling.
Captain Julie Keeney and this flight team are responsible for refueling fighter jets during mission travel.
“Just like you'd pull your van up to a gas station and you fill it up so that you can keep on driving that's what the fighters or the other air craft are doing,” she explained.
During this exercise, around eight F-16s took turns re-filling their gas tanks. The jets that were refueled, are assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base in Japan, and the 'WW', which refers to the Wild Weasel mission of the squadron.
Captain Bobby Pico sat side by side Keeney, piloting the aircraft. He explained how essential this operation is.
"A fighter without extra gas, they can only stay on station for maybe two hours but with the tanker on station then the fighters can go execute the mission and they can stay on station for up to six or eight hours," he said.
The first aerial refueling took place in 1920, 20 years before the Air Force was created.
There are nine KC-135R Stratotankers located at Eielson. This time the mission was only an exercise taking place as part of Red Flag-Alaska on the base, but these guardsmen are prepared to defend the last frontier.