Last of the Piston Engineers

CMSgt. Michael Reinert, the Air Force’s last piston-engine flight engineer, retired this week from the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing at Rosecrans ANG Base. Reinert joined the service in 1970 and embarked on Operation Creek Party—the Air Guard’s first sustained overseas commitment—as a KC-97 Stratotanker and C-97 Stratofreighter flight engineer. During two-week rotations to Rhein-Main AB, Germany, Reinert helped refuel fighter aircraft, allowing USAF’s then-limited KC-135 fleet to focus on operations in Southeast Asia. The historic Creek Party effort, which took place between 1967 and 1977, “established a template for overseas deployments by the Air Guard” in support of Total Force operations, explained Charles Gross, ANG history program director at the Air Guard Readiness Center at JB Andrews, Md. When the Air Force scrapped the KC-97L, Reinert retrained on the C-130. (Rosecrans report by MSgt. Mike Smith)