Mildenhall squadron’s ‘crucial role’ earns Air Force award

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Parks, center, 351st Air Refueling Squadron commander, receives the

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Parks, center, 351st Air Refueling Squadron commander, receives the 2013 Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Trophy on behalf of the 351st ARS on Oct. 30, 2014, during the 46th Annual Airlift/Tanker Association Convention and Symposium. - Credit: Archant

An American refuelling wing based in Suffolk has become the first overseas unit to win a prestigious US Air Force award.

Proving their dedication, the 351st Air Refuelling Squadron (ARS), based at RAF Mildenhall, won the 2013 General Carl Spaatz Trophy earlier this year.

The trophy is awarded to the most outstanding air refuelling squadron in Air Mobility Command across the entirety of the US Air Force.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parks, the squadron’s commander, said: “It’s recognition of the great work the Airmen of the 351st ARS have done over the past year. It was truly a team effort of all the aircrew members and support personnel from the 351st ARS, as well as an acknowledgement of how well the 100th Air Refuelling Wing works together as a team to generate KC-135 Stratotanker [refuelling plane] missions.”

Lt Col Parks said the Mildenhall-based squadron had a more important role in operational missions, compared to US-based squadrons that fly training missions.

He said: “Our sister squadrons in the US tend to be tasked with a preponderance of training missions ensuring all the [air refuelling] receivers in the states maintain their qualifications.

“But here we’re tasked with operational missions everyday supporting aircraft going to and from US Air Forces Central Command and supporting operations in three different areas of responsibility simultaneously. Winning this award builds upon the pride and adds to the legacy of the Bloody Hundredth.”

Most Read

He added he was very proud of the airmen in the 351st ARS and 100th ARW for playing a critical role in the US Air Force.

As the sole tanker fleet for US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, the 351st ARS flew more than 8,400 flight hours, 73% of which were priority one missions, achieving an overall mission effectiveness rate of 98%.

Staff Sergeant Michael Eiland, 351st ARS boom operator from Omaha, Nebraska, said: “I think the fact that we do our job at the level we’ve been doing it and with the proficiency we’ve been doing it with really makes us stand out.”

Aside from accumulating 10,000 total days deployed, the most in 21 years, the refuelling squadron used 23 crews and 21,000 hours of alert status supporting operations in Libya.

The 351st ARS continued to make their mark in history by being the first US squadron to refuel French fighters over Africa in support of combat operations and the first US tankers to refuel for the Moroccan air force.

“This win feels good,” Staff Sgt Eiland said. “Ultimately, we’re just doing our job refuelling aircraft and getting people where they need to go.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter