Defense

February 26, 2014

Manas KC-135s complete final mission, leave Kyrgyzstan

As a KC-135 Stratotanker taxis, the members of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing salute Feb. 24, 2014, at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The KC-135 departed the after the final refueling mission over Afghanistan from the Transit Center.

The Transit Center’s final aerial refueling mission over Afghanistan landed at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Feb. 24, completing the end of an era.

After six hours of traveling, refueling A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F-16 Fighting Falcons, the KC-135 Stratotanker touched down to a fanfare of saluting Airmen.

Col. Mike Seiler, the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, piloted the historical flight.

“It’s pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” Seiler said. “When (I) think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one–fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”

A crew chief with the 376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron marshals in a KC-135 Stratotanker Feb. 24, 2014, after a flight at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The flight was the last combat-refueling mission over Afghanistan from the Transit Center.

Over the last 12.5 years here, KC-135s flew 33,500 sorties that led to 135,000 aircraft refueled with more than 12.2 billion gallons of fuel delivered, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“I wish there was an honest way to track how many times a tanker mission has directly affected troops on the ground, ” Seiler said.

SMSgt. Jeffrey Bishop, the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was the boom for the final mission.

“It all comes down to people … Airmen with a big ‘A,'” Bishop said. “This team – I would go to war with them anytime.”

Col. Mike Seiler gives a thumbs up after completing the last refueling flight originating from Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, Feb. 24, 2014. Seiler is the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.




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