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Wing stands down critical aerial refueling mission

The 157th Air Refueling Wing, Pease NH, prepares to refuel an F-15 from the 104th Fighter Wing, Westfield MA, high above northern New England on June 29, 2012. In Prone position, boom operator TSgt. Justin Poteet of the 157th will transfer fuel that will allow the F-15s to continue their "dog fight" training exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/SrA. Kelly Galloway)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- A KC-135 tanker assigned to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, prepares to refuel an F-15 from the 104th Fighter Wing high above during a mission in 2012. The Northeast Tanker Task Force stood down July 31 at 8 a.m. after nearly 13 years of flying aerial refueling missions. (N.H. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kelly Galloway)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- The Northeast Tanker Task Force, known also as NETTF, stood down a 24/7 alert commitment July 31 at 8 a.m. after nearly 13 years of flying aerial refueling missions over New York City and other metropolitan cities, 157th Air Refueling Wing officials announced.

The men and women of the 157th Air Refueling Wing sprang into action hours after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by flying a "bridge" over New York City to provide aerial refueling to the fighter cap protecting the city.

In an email to wing personnel, Col. Paul "Hutch" Hutchinson, 157th Air Refueling Wing commander, expressed his appreciation to Airmen.

"Over the past 12 years this unit has performed with great distinction and extraordinary service to the nation and our deployed warriors," said Hutchinson. "I am extremely proud of every member of our organization as you continue to build the most respected total force National Guard unit in the country."

He went on to attribute lives saved and families reunited as a result of those efforts.

"The commitment to duty and sacrifice exhibited by Airmen from the 157th Air Refueling Wing continued for nearly 13 years since that horrific event took place," said Lt. Col. John Czachor, 157th Operations Group, who has filled roles on the task force as a pilot, supervisor of flying and detachment commander of Title 10 forces since 2004.

In the days that followed Sept. 11, 2001, crews from the 157 ARW more than 360 missions, averaging almost a sortie a day through 2002.

"The wing flew nearly a sortie a day for the next three years," said Czachor. "Then from 2005 to 2009 the average sortie flown decreased to 270 missions per year; a sortie every 1.3 days."

He went on to say that from 2010 to present, the wing saw a drastic reduction in sorties flown ... but not with capability.

"In total since 9/11, the 157th Air Refueling Wing flew 2,818 sorties, 10,698 hours and offloaded nearly 170 million pounds of fuel; a story of epic achievement," Czachor said.

"Whether the operation was called Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom or lastly New Dawn, the constant commitment of personnel, material, and aircraft from the wing never wavered," he said. "At its zenith, the eight alert lines from Pease were dedicated to the airbridge enlisting all associated flight and maintenance crews, base support, security and logistics needed to launch aircraft supporting active combat missions."

He went on to recognize that the dining facility was activated.

"The 157th Force Support Squadron served meals around the clock to affect the mission," continued Czachor.

"Executing this mission from home, it was easy for Airmen to isolate and insulate themselves from the conflict and war that was occurring thousands of miles away," said Czachor. "Often it was difficult to relate how we were directly contributing to mission success overseas."

He went on to note that refueling B-2 strike missions, GITMO missions, B-1's, C17's carrying anything from MRAP's to our own wounded are examples of increased mission velocity.

"If you turned a wrench, refueled a plane, paid personnel, provided healthcare, wrote an order, or in any way supported Airmen and aircraft assigned to the 157th Air Refueling Wing during the airbridge - then you were essential to the global reach that aerial refueling provided," stated Czachor.

Noting that it was that capability which ensured overall mission success and ultimately saved countless lives in theater.

As the airbridge alert commitment ends, Czachor stressed that the time spent away from family, missed holidays, missed vacations, times away from kids and loved ones are sacrifices that served a vital purpose and are appreciated directly and indirectly by the men and women in combat.

"The 157th Air Refueling Wing has a long distinguished history of service -- your efforts contributed to one of its finest chapters," he wrote in a letter to the men and women of the wing July 31.

He closed by writing, "On behalf of all who have benefited from your efforts, I extend to you a sincere gratitude for your service and sacrifice."
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