Updated December 22, 2011
The 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard conducted spouse orientation rides on a KC-135R Stratotanker with the 185th Airlift Wing, Iowa Air National Guard Dec. 2-3, 2011, in Fort Smith, Ark. Spouses of 188th members were able to observe the Flying Razorbacks' A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" conduct aerial refueling from the KC-135R's boom operation area during the flight. The flight was part of an open house in which 188th family members were afforded the opportunity to fly an A-10 simulator as well as observe A-10 training exercises at the 188th's Detachment 1 Razorback Range located at Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, Ark. The objective of the program was to showcase the 188th's mission to family members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hannah Landeros / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Hi-res
Note: Pictured is A-10C 78-0642 (ex 131st FS, 104th FW, Massachusetts ANG) from the 184th Fighter Squadron.
by Airman 1st Class John Hillier
188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
12/19/2011 - FORT SMITH, Ark. -- It was a family affair at the 188th Fighter Wing during the December Unit Training Assembly.
Spouses took to the skies over Fort Smith for an up-close look at flight operations during a "Spouse Lift" orientation flight here Dec. 3.
Unit family members also took advantage of the opportunity to observe the 188th's A-10C Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" drop munitions, conduct strafing runs and fire their 30mm Gatling guns at Detachment 1 Razorback Range, which is located at Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, Ark.
Family members were also afforded the chance to operate an A-10 flight simulator during the two-day program.
"I thought it would be a good idea to do something for the families, to show them a small part of what we do here," said Capt. Josh Parnell, a 188th pilot who also functioned as the project officer for the spouse orientation flights. "I wanted them to see what their spouse as a unit member does to contribute that as a civilian you wouldn't normally get to see."
In all, 97 spouses had the opportunity to fly aboard a KC-135R Stratotanker from the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing as it conducted mid-air refueling exercises with the 188th's A-10s.
After a safety briefing from Tech Sgt. Mike Dunlop, a boom operator with the 185th, spouses were given a tour around the KC-135R, and learned about the refueling mission of the aircraft.
Spouses then boarded the KC-135R and strapped in for takeoff. Once the aircraft reached 16,000 feet, spouses were able to explore the aircraft and talk with the crew and visit the cockpit.
While the spouses took photos of the Stratotanker and watched out the windows for the arrival of the A-10s, Dunlop talked about the KC-135R's mission, and entertained them with stories from his career.
Each spouse had the opportunity to observe a contact drill between the KC-135R and an A-10, in which the boom operator connects the refueling hose to the other aircraft in preparation for mid-air refueling.
Parnell, who flew with the 185th for three years before coming to the 188th had flown spouse flights with KC-135Rs before, he said. He was able to use that relationship to benefit both the 185th and 188th.
"I've flown with both the pilots and boom operators many times," Parnell said. "I know them really well. That helped with organization of the flights, and would have been much more difficult without that personal relationship."
Parnell said it can be challenging to keep current with training requirements, especially for part-time flyers. Parnell said they don't get to refuel A-10s very often, so it's a change of pace for them.
"The 185th gets get to fly sorties out of a different location and refuel an aircraft that they don't normally get to practice with," Parnell said.
Parnell said the 188th pilots got to not only exhibit the aerial refueling process to unit member spouses but it was also a chance to prepare for the 188th's upcoming Air Expeditionary Forces deployment to Afghanistan this summer.
"We've got a lot on our plate next year, and air refueling is a big part of letting us execute our mission." Parnell said. "It's also something that family members were able to go see. Knowing that we're going to be deployed next summer, it's a way to say 'thank you' to the families for supporting us when we have to go away and do our jobs."
The flight was certainly appreciated. It was the first flight ever for Shelley Staggs.
"It was really neat; I enjoyed it," she said. "We went up in the cockpit and got down in the [boom area]. I'd definitely do it again."
A-10C 78-0586 (ex 118th FS, 103rd FW, Connecticut ANG) from the 184th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Hillier / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Hi-res
A-10C 78-0646 (ex 118th FS, 103rd FW, Connecticut ANG) from the 184th Fighter Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hannah Landeros / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs) Hi-res
Update December 20, 2011: Today, 184th FW Public Affairs released some more related pictures on the wing's website and posted a huge album 188th family members observe unit's mission with 77 photos on the wing's fan page on Facebook, ncluding a lot of additional air-to-air shots.
Update December 22, 2011
The following two additional hi-res photos has been released:
A-10C 78-0642 approaches the tanker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Hannah Landeros / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Hi-res
A brilliant shot of A-10C 78-0586. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John Hillier / 188th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)