News Search

64th ARS pilot completes 100th combat sortie

Lt. Col. Thomas Blake is a pilot serving with the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Blake, who recently completed his 100th combat sortie and fini flight, is deployed out of Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., and is a native of Wakefield, N.H. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Lt. Col. Thomas Blake is a pilot serving with the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Blake, who recently completed his 100th combat sortie and fini flight, is deployed out of Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., and is a native of Wakefield, N.H. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett)

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- A 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron pilot deployed to Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, recently flew his 100th combat sortie during an air refueling mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"The mission today is to fuel the fight over Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Thomas C. Blake, deployed from Pease Air National Guard Base, Portsmouth, N.H. "Throughout the entire length of this campaign we have been providing fuel so that the fighters, bombers and transport aircraft don't have to land and get refueled and spend time as well as extra expenses on trying to get what they need."

Although it isn't uncommon for a pilot to reach 100 combat sorties, Blake said the timing is what makes this milestone special.

"One hundred combat sorties after an 11 or 12 year campaign isn't totally unusual," Blake said. "What's unique for me is that my first combat sortie didn't start until I was well into my career nearly 10 years ago in 2004 at age 45. To have my last one here at age 55, for me it's a milestone. I can take that and put it away and maybe tell my grandkids about it someday, that's why it's unique."

Blake, a Wakefield, N.H., native has had a unique Air Force career that spans 32 years.

"I'm a returned to active duty guy. We're affectionately known as re-treads, like taking an old tire and putting new rubber on it," Blake said with a laugh. "I was on active duty and then I separated from the Air Force for six or so years; then came back to the Air National Guard, and did that for 13 years. I had my first opportunity to come here, separated from the guard and was offered the opportunity to come back on active duty. So I've been in the Air Force three different times."

Blake is currently active duty, but when he was in the Air National Guard, he was a military and civilian pilot.

"I've had the opportunity to do that [military flying] and civilian flying at the same time, back and forth," Blake said. "It's been a very rewarding career, a very busy career. Overshadowing the whole thing is a love for this country, it's very simple."

His passion for flying began at a young age.

"My mother took me to Spain in a plane pretty close to this one a long time ago, that's when I fell in love with aviation," Blake said. "From that point I wanted to be an airline pilot, a military pilot, I wanted to do whatever it took to get up in the air. I went through the military for my Air Force training and fell in love with military flying."

Although he plans on retiring from his Air Force career within a year, he said he'll most likely go back to being an airline pilot.

"I'm going to stay home and be with my wife and fly the 'line', as they call it in the airlines," he said. "It's not quite as exciting as this, not quite as demanding, but it's good just the same."

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.