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Small Airman, big airplane

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

The first KC-46 Pegasus is currently scheduled to arrive at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., in 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

SEATTLE -- On Aug. 6, 2014,  Air Force officials announced that Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, would be the Air Force's first Air National Guard-led KC-46A Pegasus main operating base.

Since that announcement, the men and women of the 157th Air Refueling Wing have been preparing for its arrival by making changes to the base to accommodate the new aircraft and mission.

State and wing leadership recently traveled to Seattle to meet with The Boeing Company representatives and see the KC-46, as well as get an update on when the plane will arrive at Pease.

Having the opportunity to accompany leadership as a young Airman was not only an opportunity to learn from leadership, but a chance to represent the wing's junior enlisted force.

The new plane, the KC-46 Pegasus, is a Boeing 767-2C multi-role aircraft, meaning its interior can be configured to hold cargo, passengers, and medical evacuation patients.

The plane is equipped with an advanced fly-by-wire refueling boom that can offload 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, and a centerline drogue system. By having both refueling systems the tanker can fuel all U.S., coalition, and allied aircrafts, this shows the versatility of this aircraft.

During meetings with Boeing, officials announced that the first tanker is currently scheduled to arrive in New Hampshire in the spring of 2018, with the rest of the fleet arriving in subsequent years.

A shortcoming to being so new to the Air Force is that meetings with senior officers and enlisted can get confusing, especially when they start speaking what seemed like a foreign language of acronyms and pilot jargon. The meeting with Mike Gibbons, program manager for the KC-46 program, was no exception. I often felt like I needed a decoder or dictionary to fully understand what they were talking about.

What I witnessed during these meeting didn't require translation. I saw the enormous amount of time, energy and thoughtfulness that is being put into the KC-46 program. From training aircrew and maintenance personnel, to meticulous details put into the construction of the aircraft, all to make it the best weapon system it can be.

During the visit, we had the opportunity to try the refueling boom simulator and the ECab flight simulator. Both are training tools for the KC-46 test pilots and boom operators.

I realized quickly while trying these simulators, the immense amount of skill and knowledge it takes to be a boom operator and a pilot, providing a more profound respect for what they do for the United States Air Force.

The New Hampshire contingent was able to see a KC-46 earmarked for the 157th Air Refueling Wing, for some of us, it was the first time seeing the tanker in person. Like many in our group, I was at a loss for words for how beautifully-crafted this aircraft was.

As I toured the plane, I thought of the future of the wing and what this new tanker will mean for the state of New Hampshire and my future.

With this plane comes increased responsibility for the 157th Air Refueling Wing, and more of a spotlight to be the premier Air National Guard unit in the country.

This also provides the next generation of Airmen, like myself, a chance to see a once in a lifetime change in aircraft that will affect our careers for years to come. It also gives us an experience that we wouldn't get anywhere else but right here in the New Hampshire Air National Guard.