Behind the Refuelers

The Air Force’s KC-135 tankers are busy covering operations in Southwest Asia, where officials say they fly three times as often as in the states. And, keeping them flying 24/7 are some 140 airmen deployed from five stateside bases to form the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. Unlike stateside where a unit might prepare 60 percent of its tankers for flight on any given day, allowing a slower pace for maintenance on the remainder, the 340th must turn nearly every tanker every day. In July, says Capt. James Wall, the unit’s officer in charge, the 340th maintainers achieved a 94.6 percent utilization rate.