AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR –
“Outbound aircraft, this is the tower. You’re cleared for takeoff. Have a good flight,” says an unknown voice across the communication system aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker from the air traffic control tower at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
For aircrew assigned to the , these words are not only a start to their day; but rather, permission to fuel the fight against ISIS from above.
Comprised of a total force team; active, guard and reserve aircrew members, the men and women of the 340th EARS are charged with the task of extending combat power by providing proactive agile, and effective air refueling in line with the objectives of the Combined Forces Air Component Command and Combined Joint Special Operation Air Component.
According to Lt. Col. Joseph Carr, 340th EARS director of operations, the mission of the historic KC-135 squadron is to enable its receiver’s capabilities to extend their air-to-air refueling missions and prolonging their ability to provide air superiority.
“Air-to-air refueling extends joint and Coalition receivers’ on-station loiter ability, expanding the time of opportunity to observe, target and destroy enemy assets or provide over-watch protection of our ground forces,” Carr said.
Each day, the 340th EARS provides nearly two-thirds of all U.S. Central Command air-to-air refueling off-load for joint, Coalition and NATO partners. During a deployment, aircrews flying KC-135 missions can expect to refuel a variety of aircraft ranging from bombers, reconnaissance, fighters and cargo.
“We are matched up with so many different receivers from all of the different functions of the U.S. military and international,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Micklo, 340th EARS pilot. “It’s always an adventure; we get heavy aircraft, fighter aircraft; props and jets, and it’s just really interesting to be able to communicate and interact with those different aircraft.”
In August 2017 alone, the 340th EARS supported a total offload of 36.5 million pounds of fuel to 3,180 aircrafts. The squadron accomplished roughly 150 missions each month, and nearly 1,800 within the last year.
“By having the most amount of gas in the air each day it allows our aircraft and partners the flexibility to perform their operations and missions more effectively,” said Micklo.
In the last 10 years the squadron has contributed air refueling capabilities in several major operations including Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Freedom Sentinel and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.
“Without a doubt, the USCENTCOM mission would not happen without the efforts of the men and women of the 340th EARS,” said Carr. “Our Airmen are unquestionably mission-oriented, hardworking, dedicated, and non-stop focused. The tanker mission runs 24/7 a day with no relief.”
Originally constituted on Sept. 24, 1942, as the 340th Fighter Squadron. Since its inception, the squadron has gone through several consolidations, deactivations and name changes. The squadron was officially redesignated as the 340th EARS, which it is today, on Jan. 25, 2002.
On Sept. 24, 2017, the squadron celebrated its 75th anniversary.