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Block training builds relationships at McConnell

22 ARW, 344th ARS, McConnell AFB, KC-46

Attendees from six different guest bases visited McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, the week of September 24-28 to discuss a variety of capabilities, concerns and opportunities related to the KC-46 Pegasus. McConnell is scheduled to be the first base to receive the new aircraft and proactively preparing for the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jenna Caldwell)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- It’s been 40 years since McConnell Air Force Base received the KC-135 Stratotanker mission. As that aircraft prepares to leave the base, the 344th Air Refueling Squadron is using that time to take the extraordinarily rare steps of writing the rule book for a new aircraft.

During the week of September 24-28, Lt. Col. Wes Spurlock, commander of the refueling squadron, hosted 83 attendees representing eight different bases visiting McConnell.

“I’m looking forward to building a community with you,” said Spurlock, during training. “I want us to do this right.”

The group was comprised of all Air Force components: Active Duty, Air National Guard and Reserve as well as multiple commands including Air Mobility Command, Air Education and Training Command and Air Force Reserve Command. The team spent the week discussing a variety of capabilities, concerns and opportunities related to the KC-46 Pegasus.

For example, the KC-46 has the ability to receive fuel, which is not a capability shared by all KC-135 aircraft.

Master Sgt. Kenneth Essick worked as a boom operator for 15 years and attended as a standardization and evaluation representative from AMC. He expressed confidence that the aircrews could adapt successfully to the new capabilities the KC-46 brings to the fight. However, he said he expects that new learning opportunities will become apparent as the transition progresses.

For example, the boom operator on a legacy platform, like the KC-135 or KC-10, works through a window. If needed, the boom operator could communicate with a receiver pilot through hand signals. The KC-46 boom operator works through a remote visual system utilizing 3-D technology, which presents a learning opportunity to the next generation of boom operators.

“We have an opportunity here to expand our scope,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas LaPlant, 344th ARS director of operations, as he encouraged attendees to think about possibilities of the KC-46 mission, rather than limitations.

That optimism was a theme for attendees who have spent years anticipating the new aircraft.
“I’ve seen pessimism and sarcasm invade our thinking,” said Spurlock. “But we’re looking ahead and are building our legacy.”

The training was an opportunity to spend time with members who share that legacy.