Support our mission
Lt. Col David Glisson, aircraft commander, inspects the engine exhaust on a KC-135 prior to a refueling mission at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, on Tuesday. Glisson is from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Mississippi.

Lt. Col David Glisson, aircraft commander, inspects the engine exhaust on a KC-135 prior to a refueling mission at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, on Tuesday. Glisson is from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Mississippi. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

Lt. Col David Glisson, aircraft commander, inspects the engine exhaust on a KC-135 prior to a refueling mission at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, on Tuesday. Glisson is from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Mississippi.

Lt. Col David Glisson, aircraft commander, inspects the engine exhaust on a KC-135 prior to a refueling mission at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, on Tuesday. Glisson is from the 186th Air Refueling Wing, Meridian, Mississippi. (Raymond T. Conway / S&S)

1st Lt. Rob Garrison, co-pilot, looks over a map during a KC-135 refueling mission Tuesday.

1st Lt. Rob Garrison, co-pilot, looks over a map during a KC-135 refueling mission Tuesday. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

Air Force Master Sgt. Glenn Hancock lines up the boom with a C-17 during refueling Tuesday over the Black Sea.

Air Force Master Sgt. Glenn Hancock lines up the boom with a C-17 during refueling Tuesday over the Black Sea. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

A C-17 approaches the back of a KC-135 refueler 20,000 feet above the Black Sea on Tuesday. The plane's boom is pictured in the foreground, ready for refueling.

A C-17 approaches the back of a KC-135 refueler 20,000 feet above the Black Sea on Tuesday. The plane's boom is pictured in the foreground, ready for refueling. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

The KC-135's boom makes contact with the C-17 as refueling begins.

The KC-135's boom makes contact with the C-17 as refueling begins. (Lisa Horn / S&S)

Air Force boom operators claim they’re the only airmen flown to work every day. And Tuesday’s refueling mission 20,000 feet above the Black Sea was no different for Master Sgts. Glenn Hancock and Sonny McCarra, boom operators for the 186th Air Refueling Wing, 153rd Air Refueling Squadron from Meridian, Miss.

“That’s what their job is — to take me to work,” McCarra joked, pointing to pilots Lt. Col. David “Doc” Glisson and 1st Lt. Rob Garrison.

The Air National Guard unit — part of the 385th Air Expeditionary Group — is staging its refueling missions from Rhein-Main Air Base until the end of the month while the runway at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, is closed for repairs.

Since August 2003, the 385th’s crews have been gassing up C-17s, E-8Cs and C-5s around the clock as they fly to and from downrange, said Lt. Col. Twayne Mobley, commander of the 385th AEG.

“[The receivers] need the gas to be able to minimize their time on the ground at their stops,” Mobley explained.

Glisson, Garrison, McCarra and Hancock took off Tuesday from Rhein-Main to meet up with a C-17 on its way to Balad Air Base, Iraq.

Capts. Lance Spear and Eduardo Emmanuelli, pilots of the C-17, had taken off from Rhein-Main shortly before the KC-135. Two and a half hours later, the aircraft rendezvoused over the Black Sea, just off the coast of Turkey.

During the mission, Glisson and Garrison stayed in constant contact with Spear and Emmanuelli to ensure both planes were able to meet at the predetermined refueling time.

Lying on his stomach in a small pit at the plane’s tail, Hancock had his hands at the controls. As he lowered the boom to a point just above the C-17 cockpit, he filled the plane with 65,000 pounds of fuel, or roughly 9,700 gallons.

The 11 minutes of refueling went flawlessly. As the C-17 pulled away to continue its flight into Iraq, Hancock waved to the crewmembers and they disappeared into the horizon.

Flying directly into the setting sun, the KC-135 turned to head back to Germany. Glisson and Garrison attached Post-it notes to the windshield to deflect some of the sun’s glare.

“It’s redneck sunscreen,” Glisson joked in his Southern drawl.

Before Incirlik’s repairs began, a similar refueling mission would take three hours, or about half the time it took on this day. In addition to adapting to the longer flight time, pilots have also had to adjust to maneuvering in and out of Frankfurt’s busy airspace.

Glisson had to fight to break into the Frankfurt radio chatter as an air traffic controller provided instructions to the endless number of incoming and outgoing aircraft.

“The three big challenges [flying from Rhein-Main] are getting out of Frankfurt, the timing of the refueling itself and finally getting back to Rhein-Main and landing,” Mobley said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up