'Squares' named coolest refuelers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Armando A. Schwier-Morales
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"In 2008, I was in Afghanistan coordinating close air support, and I know what it's like talking to the ground guys when they are getting shot at," said the operations officer. "Then all of a sudden - fixed wing assets show up and turn the tide. But, they can't get there without tanker support."

Lt. Col. Robert Pochert's, 384th Air Refueling Squadron operations officer, Airmen won the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Trophy April 21, 2012, earning the title of Top Air Refueling Squadron in the Air Force.

While their commander is currently deployed, via telephone conference he expressed his pride for the squadron.

Named after Spaatz, a WWI ace and the first Air Force Chief of Staff, the trophy recognizes the most outstanding air refueling squadron in the Air Force.

The 384th Air Refueling Squadron, "square patchers," flew approximately 2,000 combat missions offloading 84 million pounds of fuel to more than 5,500 receivers.

"Our air refueling is what makes us a superpower," said Lt. Col. Stan Lawrie, 384th ARS commander. "Air refueling provides our nation the ability to project combat power, global vigilance, aeromedical evacuation and airlift to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. That is what the 384th does, we deliver hope."

With 9,500 flying hours, the squadron's efforts were instrumental in helping the 22nd Air Refueling Wing achieve a new wing flying record, of 46,300 hours. They also helped establish the refueling wing during Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, which flew its first mission within 36 hours of notification.

"What a year. It was the busiest year on record for McConnell because we were fighting three wars," said Lawrie. "The type of tempo that my Airmen faced is not likely to be ever repeated, and I am impressed and proud of my guys for keeping up. This is a team achievement! From our men and women in harm's way, to the amazing spouses taking care of the homefront so we can focus on the mission, I am proud of each and every one of you."

In addition to exceeding operational expectations, the 384th ARS was rated on aircrew training and enhancement, individual education, community relations and outstanding accomplishments.

"A lot of the achievements are just the direct result of hard work and the opportunities the Air Force has presented," said Pochert.

Known for wearing the only square patch in the Air Force, the 384th ARS' outside-the-box thinking and training led to a rare first lieutenant fully qualified as an aircraft commander, zero safety incidents and the authoring of a fuel guide which saved the Air Force approximately $42,000, said Pochert.

Individually, the 94 person-strong squadron averaged 180 days deployed. Yet, they still helped the local Wichita, Kan., community. The squadron volunteered 7,100 hours at churches, Big Brother Big Sisters, youth soccer, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. The 384th ARS also led McConnell's "Pilot for a Day Program," fulfilling six terminally ill children's dreams.

"It's an honor and privilege to have so many great warriors, officers and enlisted, in the 384th ARS doing so many fantastic things," said Pochert. "They are not volunteering because we tell them to do it; they are doing it because they want to it. They do it because they are driven to exceed expectations, perform and excel."

The squadron has every intention to continue these efforts, said Pochert. Their motto for the coming year is "impeccable fundamentals." They define it as never accepting "good enough," always striving for the perfect landing, the perfectly ran checklist and the perfect contact.

The 384th ARS' need for perfection is intended to ensure fixed wing assets reach their targets and as they say in the tanker world, "No one kicks ass without tanker gas - no one."