168th Airmen head south for the winter
By Senior Master Sgt. Paul Mann, 168th Wing
/ Published November 20, 2019
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Approximately 19 Airmen assigned to the 168th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, ventured out of Alaska’s below freezing temperatures en route to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and its 80-degree days.
Each year, Airmen from the 168th Wing deploy to Guam in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Theater Security Package and Continuous Bomber Presence, supporting daily KC-135R Stratotanker refueling and maintenance operations.
Over the next six months, more than 70 aircrew, maintenance and support personnel from the wing will spend time in the U.S. territory, often forward deploying to other countries in the region.
In addition to the support mission these Airmen provide, the deployment also presents training and mission challenges that are not seen in Alaska’s subarctic region.
“Navigation over different parts of the Pacific Ocean, differing climates, working with foreign embassies and foreign customs officials are all things we experience during this deployment,” said Master Sgt. Christian Willey, 168th Air Refueling Squadron.
Traveling to foreign nations around that part of the globe presents both logistical and technical challenges for the aircrew and maintenance Airmen. Some of the locales are less than austere, some lack the proper facilities for working on the aircraft, but all provide new opportunities for wing Airmen.
“You never know what type of facility you’ll be working out of or who you are going to be working alongside,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gary Critchfield, component maintenance flight chief, 168th Maintenance Squadron,. “But this is great training and experience for everyone who participates.”
The first group of replacements will arrive in mid-December, with subsequent rotations taking place about every 30 days.