Mildenhall celebrates role in war
Stars and Stripes June 14, 2003
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The rain never arrived, but the general did.
The threat of a thunderstorm pushed RAF Mildenhall’s Iraqi Freedom Party into a hangar on Thursday, where Gen. Gregory S. Martin thanked Team Mildenhall for its effort during the war on Iraq.
“I am happy to be on the team with you,” Martin told a few hundred military members and their families who gathered for hamburgers, hot dogs, beer and soda on what remained a bright, sunny day.
Martin, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, asked everyone to “take a moment and reflect on those people who will not come back.”
He then moved through the crowd, shaking hands, posing for photographs and talking easily with airmen and their families.
Children played on bouncy castles and the USAFE rock band Galaxy entertained.
In introducing Martin, Col. Donald Lustig, who commands the 100th Air Refueling Wing, said the party aimed to recognize everyone at the base who deployed for the war and those who remained behind to take care of the home front.
“Every member of the team had something to do with our success,” Lustig told the crowd.
During the war, members of the 100th ARW joined the 401st Air Expeditionary Wing at a base in the Mediterranean region. The 352nd Special Operations Group also deployed a large number of troops, although their mission cannot be discussed.
The refuelers, however, have a lot to talk about. The expeditionary wing, which was also joined by tankers based in the States, flew 1,250 combat sorties during the war, according to information from the base public affairs office.
They were in the air for 5,700 hours and pumped about 7 million gallons of fuel to 4,400 aircraft. And while the tankers came and went with the frequency of London subway trains, they were able to answer the call 92 percent of the time.
Capt. J.B. Meyers, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot with the 351st Air Refueling Squadron, said crews were flying around the clock, getting the minimum of rest between sorties to quench the thirst of the fighters and bombers taking the war to Iraq.
“You’d see your name at the top and the bottom of the schedule,” he said.
He said 13 of his flights were over Iraq, which is unusual for the tankers, who normally pump their gas away from hostile territory.
“With the air superiority we had, that’s not really a big deal,” he said.
Lt. Col. Chevy Cleaves, commander of the 351st ARS, said one figure from the deployment was most impressive. The wing’s mission effectiveness rate was 99.8 percent.
“That represents two missions,” Cleaves said of the figure’s lack of perfection. If an aircraft was unable to fly for some reason, another aircraft took on the mission, he said.
Only two times during the 1,250 sorties did the wing not provide fuel to the expecting aircraft.
“It is a phenomenal feat to do what we did,” Cleaves said. “These guys have a lot to be proud of.”