MacDill KC-135s Deploy to Middle East, as McConnell Stratotankers Return

KC-135s and Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., recently deployed to the Middle East to take over the in-theater refueling mission from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., tankers that returned home.

The entire 50th Air Refueling Squadron deployed to al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Aug. 18, as opposed to a piecemeal deployment of individual tankers and Airmen from across Air Mobility Command. This is the first “mass unit” deployment for the McConnell squadron, which replaced the 349th Air Refueling Squadron that also deployed as a whole unit in April. KC-135s began operating under the new deployment model, which has since moved to C-130 units as well, in August 2019, according to AMC.

“One of the greatest assets that the 50th brings to the fight is our ability to adapt and overcome adversity,” Lt. Col. Menola Guthrie, commander of the 50th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, said in an Air Forces Central Command release. “We have a great team of resilient people who are ready to get to work.”

While in the Middle East, the tankers will support combat operations targeting the remnants of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, along with ongoing missions in Afghanistan, while also working to deter “Iranian aggression in the region,” Lt. Col. John Stephens, deputy commander of the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group, said in the release. While assigned to this group, the squadron will cover about half of the air-to-air refueling needs of Air Forces Central Command.

The 349th Air Refueling Squadron supported 1,100 combat missions during its deployment, totaling more than 7,000 combat hours. In total, they offloaded more than 38 million pounds of fuel to 16 different receiving aircraft, according to a McConnell release.