AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar –
The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron embarked on its first mission out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 15, 2020.
The historic mission marked a transition for tanker squadrons deploying to AUAB. In a renewed focus on squadron vitality, they will once again deploy to Al Udeid as unified squadron teams. The 349th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron is leading the way. The active duty squadron deployed out of McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas with their full complement of Airmen.
Prior to the historic mission, a variety of active duty, Guard, and Reserve component personnel and aircraft were combined into one large squadron, the 28th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron with personnel deployed for a variety of timeframes.
The 349th’s sister squadron at Al Udeid, the 340th EARS today includes members from approximately ten Guard and Reserve squadrons. Over the next couple of years it will move to only two squadrons and significantly reduce the constant rotation of crews.
“Under the previous construct, some crew members would be here for thirty days and others one-hundred and thirty,” said Lt. Col. Isaiah Oppelaar, 340th EARS commander. “Members were from all over the country, from across all components of the Total Force, so the squadrons were never able to develop the culture and identity to maximize our combat power.”
The transition marked the culmination of a collaborative effort between multiple major commands to deploy squadrons together and embrace the priorities set forth by U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
“The squadron is the beating heart of the United States Air Force; our most essential team,” Goldfein said in a letter to Airmen. “Our vision demands that ‘squadrons be highly capable, expeditionary teams who can successfully defend our nation's interests in both today's and tomorrow's complex operating environments.’"
The squadron vitality initiative focuses on clarity of purpose for Airmen through three key attributes: help the squadron maintain verifiable mission success, purposeful leadership, and espirit de corps.
“When we deploy as a unit, we bring relationships and support for one another and our families. We know each other’s strengths and there is no learning curve to figuring out what works,” said Oppelaar.
Al Udeid’s tankers are assigned to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, responsible for delivering fuel to U.S. and coalition forces, enabling war-winning air power, deterrence, and stability throughout the U.S. Central command area of responsibility.
With such broad responsibilities, Brig. Gen. Daniel Tulley, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, believes this transition is a prime example of why squadron vitality is important.
“We expect our Airmen to be lethal, ready, and resilient” said Tulley. “The same applies to squadrons. In the complex environment of Central Command, we need squadron teams focused and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Squadron deployments help us do that.”