Local employers take to the skies

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristin Kurtz
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Civilian employers of Reservists and Guardsmen based at Andrews flew in a KC-135R Stratotanker refueling aircraft here Sept. 9 during an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve-sponsored flight.

The flight was an ESGR effort to thank supportive employers of 459th Air Refueling Wing Reservists and 113th Wing D.C. Air National Guardsmen. Twenty-eight employers took to the skies to see first-hand what it is their Airmen do to support their respective wing's mission.

 “It’s a wonderful opportunity to help employers understand what it is their Airmen do on Unit Training Assembly weekends,” said Kathy Sternfeld, ESGR training director for Maryland.

ESGR is a Department of Defense national committee with a mission to gain and maintain employer support for Guard and Reserve services by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law, and resolving conflicts through mediation.

Employers were flown from Joint Base Andrews to the coast of New Jersey to see an aerial refueling with F-16 Fighting Falcons.

“I was in the Navy 26 years,” said Bryan Papillion, a specialist with the Defense Information Agency. “It’s an entirely different perspective from being up here in the air and seeing what you guys do. It’s really cool and I appreciate the opportunity.”

For many of the employers, this was their first flight on a military aircraft and, for some, the first time on a military installation. 

Prior to the flight, employers were able to experience a pre-flight briefing from 459th ARW commander Col. David Owens before taking off on two KC-135s, each staffed with six Airmen from the 756th Air Refueling Squadron.

During the flight, employers took turns observing the aerial refueling next to the boom operator as he refueled the F-16s, which were as close as 30 feet away.

“This was a completely humbling experience; I can only imagine the amount of time, training and preparation that goes into being able to refuel another aircraft midair,” said Lt. Sean Mullican with the Montgomery County Sherriff’s Department. “The boom operator’s precision was incredible.”

Once they returned to base, employers applauded the crew and thanked them for the experience. Next, they were greeted by their Airmen and received honorary certificates from the ESGR for their participation in event.

“I’m really proud of our folks and I believe this is a great testament to our Airmen and what we can do,” said Owens.