By Sagar Pathak
After 18 hours aboard a KC-135 to reach Transit Center at Manas in Kyrgyzstan, I had my feet on the ground for exactly 38 hours before I would be back in the air once again. But this time it was different. This time, I would be on a combat mission over Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom by refueling U.S. and Coalition fighter jets that were covering troops on the ground. In a span of 48 hours, I would fly two combat sorties with the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in a KC-135 refueling tanker. During those two missions, we would refuel 16 aircraft during our 17.6 hours aloft, offload 78,200 pounds of fuel to thirsty U.S.A.F. and Dutch F-16s, and have travelled 8,600 nm across all of Afghanistan.
Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, for the past 12 years, refueling tankers from Transit Center at Manas have flown over Afghanistan to ensure U.S.A.F. and Coalition aircraft receive the fuel necessary to successfully complete their missions. Last year alone, the 22 EARS offloaded 20-million gallons of fuel to more than 12,000 combat aircraft. This allowed them to support 904 Troops-in-Contact events.