PORTSMOUTH — Members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing are getting recognition for their outstanding service at a pivotal moment for the unit’s home base.
U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte announced Friday that the unit, based at Pease Air National Guard base, has been selected to receive the U.S. Air Force’s Outstanding Unit Award.
Authorized in 1954, the award is granted annually by the secretary of the Air Force to units that have gain distinction through exceptionally meritorious service or “outstanding achievement that clearly sets the unit above and apart from similar units,” according to information available from the Air Force Personnel Center.
Units can also become eligible after accomplishing a “specific outstanding achievement” of “national or international significance,” or by participating in combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, or military operations involving conflict with, or exposure to, hostile actions by an opposing foreign force.
A Jan. 17 announcement posted on the website of the Minnesota National Guard states the Outstanding Unit Award recognizes the top 10 percent of Air Force units that also demonstrate high performance.
The award winners were announced by Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, on Jan. 16, according to the announcement.
The 157th Air Refueling Wing has received the Outstanding Unit Award 10 times in the past, although the announcement this week will still come as welcome news for members of the unit.
Pease Air National Guard Base is one of five being considered by the Air Force to house a new line of KC-46A air refueling tankers, which are still in production.
Receiving the craft at Pease would bring myriad benefits to the 157th, including the ability for members to train on the Air Force’s next generation of aircraft.
“This recognition is a testament to the 157th’s exceptional service in providing the best tanker support in the Air National Guard,” Shaheen and Ayotte said a in a prepared joint statement. “As the Air Force continues its evaluation process for the KC-46A, this award further demonstrates why the 157th is an ideal unit to receive the next generation tanker.”
An Air Force “site activation task force team” is scheduled to visit Pease in the next several weeks. The team will assess operational and training requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower at the facility.
Once site surveys are complete, the Air Force will select “preferred” and alternative sites for the KC-46A tankers.
The Air Force has contracted with airplane manufacturer Boeing to make the first 179 KC-46A tankers. The planes are scheduled to be available in fiscal 2016. Production is scheduled to continue for about another decade after that.
If Pease is selected as the Air National Guard Base that will house the aircraft, it will begin receiving them in fiscal 2018.
In addition to Pease, the other guard facilities being considered by the Air Force to house the KC-46A are Forbes Air Guard Station in Kansas, Joint-Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Pittsburgh International Airport Air Guard Station in Pennsylvania and Rickenbacker Air Guard Station in Ohio.
Distributed by MCT Information Services