KC-135 senior leaders convene for first ever Total Force KC-135 Weapons System Council

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tim Smith
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Senior leaders from active duty, Reserve and Guard components met to discuss the strategic and tactical way ahead for the KC-135 Stratotanker at the first ever Total Force KC-135 Weapons System Council held here at Joint Base Andrews, Md.

The Air Force Reserve’s 459th Air Refueling Wing planned and hosted the Council featuring more than 100 total force leaders from both the operations and maintenance sides of the KC-135 aircraft. The Council met to level set knowledge on current world situation and how the Air Force is training and equipping to be ready. The council placed a heavy focus on peer adversary fight- specifically, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) area of responsibility. The council discussed the current state of the weapons system along with future initiatives to accelerate competitiveness.   

“It was great to come together as a total force team and discuss how to ensure the KC-135 is a viable platform for the high-end fight into the foreseeable future,” said Col. Chesley Dycus, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

The Council brought together the airframe’s leaders and brightest minds to address related concerns and share best practices and initiatives. Council attendees said they found the inclusive discussions to be invaluable.

“There is tremendous value in getting together the wing commanders, command chiefs, and operations group and maintenance group command teams in order to identify and address issues, shortfalls, and best practices across the enterprise,” said Col. Lee Hartley, Commander, 134th Air Refueling Wing, McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tenn., and Chairman, ANG Tanker Weapons System Council. “Each component has its strengths and leveraging them is and will continue to be crucial as we gain momentum for the tanker enterprise in our new phase of ‘strategic competition.’"

A strength of this newly formed council is that it seeks to gather input not only from active duty, Guard and Reserve, but also from officer and enlisted personnel and civilian leaders associated with the KC-135 mission. This opportunity for diverse voices to be heard helps ensure understanding of the mission from the bottom up.

“I gained a broader understanding of the strategic level planning of the airframe, along with key insights of the current and planned future capabilities of the KC-135,” said Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Graves, Group Chief Senior Enlisted Leader, 127th Air Refueling Group, Selfridge ANGB, Mich.

Col. Greg Buchanan, 459th ARW Commander, served as an organizer of the event as well as its facilitator. He said he wanted to create an entity where each leg of the total force could come together as one team.

“As it stood before, the active duty, Guard, and Reserve each had their own KC-135 Weapons Systems Councils,” said Buchanan. “Those independent councils are strong and are needed, but there is also a need for each of us to come together as a total force. When we deploy, we deploy as a total force. Our seamless service is one of the Air Force’s greatest strengths.”

The Council also included command-level participants like Scott Minton, Deputy Director of Operations at Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Ill. Through and through, the Council with its multi-level membership is expected to ensure the Stratotanker continues its service as a priority asset that supports the Air Force mission.

“As the AMC A3 representative to the WSC, it was valuable to see the challenges the KC-135 Wing Commanders are experiencing and be able to bring those issues back to the staff,” said Minton. “In this capacity, I can add prioritization to the warfighter by demonstrating what provides the most impact to the Airmen executing the mission.”

Though the KC-135 airframe was front and center of the Council, the Airmen who support the mission, not just the leaders, were also an important part of the discussion. Their continued growth and development and the synergistic relationship across the total force is what will ensure mission success. 

“When we come together as one voice, Regular Air Force, Reserve, and Guard, it demonstrates a resolution that goes beyond the ‘title’ we operate in from day-to-day,” said Minton. “When we go to war, we do so as one team.  When we meet as a Total Force team, we are showing that same resolution.”