Team McConnell teams continues augmenting Altus efforts training KC-46 aircrews

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein
  • 931st Air Refueling Wing

Beginning at the dawn of the new year, Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 931st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) are now working with the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, the active-duty host unit at McConnell, to ensure KC-46A Pegasus crews are trained and ready at the installation– and nationwide, particularly at the official KC-46 school-house located at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

In January 2024, Air Education and Training Command’s 19th Air Force officially took over teaching instructor pilot and instructor boom upgrade training at Altus. However, McConnell’s Aircrew Training Detachment (ATD) – staffed with active-duty and reserve Airmen -- will continue to help meet a KC-46 instructor shortfall, a task they have committed to since the first KC-46 arrived at McConnell in January 2019. 

Prior to January 2024, Airmen at McConnell’s KC-46 ATD provided the only formal course for KC-46 instructor pilots, instructor boom operators, and aircraft commander upgrade. Now that Altus has taken on the burden of instructor upgrade, the ATD continues to provide the only formal KC-46 aircraft commander upgrade course. The ATD is vital to advancing the KC-46.

“Currently, we are limited on KC-46 instructors in active-duty to fully staff this critical function, and we absolutely need and appreciate our Reserve partners from the 931st ARW to execute our mission” said Col. Cory Damon, 22nd ARW commander.

“In the past four years, the 931st ARW and 22nd ARW have trained more than 58 instructor boom operators, 105 instructor pilots, 59 aircraft commanders, and completed 185 pilot initial qualifications and 66 boom operator initial qualifications for the KC-46.”

Maj. James Tomlin, 924th Air Refueling Squadron, Chief of ATD for the KC-46 ATD and a Traditional Reservist (TR), says another benefit of having the 931st ARW’s involvement in the training is the ability of TRs to easily augment more instructors in the program.

Tomlin states, “When Altus or McConnell wants to expand their training program, it is a more difficult to pull active-duty members due to where they are stationed.” “In the Reserves, you can pull instructors who are typically TRs and want to come in on orders to help teach. The Reserves is a really good release valve for the active-duty” said Tomlin.

Tomlin also cited the amount of experience in the Reserve, especially since its members tend to stay at their duty stations for longer periods of time than their active-duty counterparts.

With this augmentation provided by both the Reserve and active-duty at Team McConnell, a large amount of the members who complete the Instructor Upgrade program are now teaching at Altus. Tomlin says this practice will continue, further enhancing and Air Force’s KC-46 capabilities, aligning with Chief of the Air Force Reserve Lt. Gen. John Healy’s vision of the Reserve as a Ready Now arm of the total force.  

“Our Airmen that are preparing the next generation of KC-46 crews are doing more than providing members the capable skills they need in a contested environment -- they are meeting and exceeding Healy’s expectations of us to lead the way in air refueling excellence, readiness through constant innovation” said Col. Cynthia Welch, 931st ARW commander.