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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2012

Michigan Air National Guard joins forces at South Africa airshow

By Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo New York Army National Guard

PRETORIA, South Africa - U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald H. Gips met with a Michigan Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker crew Wednesday to learn about their aircraft.

Personnel from the 171st Air Refueling Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens, Mich., discussed their aircrafts' capabilities with Ambassador Gips and other dignitaries, as the Africa Aerospace and Defense Airshow and Exhibition began at the South Africa National Defense Force's Waterkloof Air Force Base.

"The Ambassador was really interested in our mission and the aircraft equipment," said KC-135T aircraft commander, Lt. Col. Paul Beck, of New Hartford, N. Y. "He took time to learn what we do when we fly a mission and seemed very pleased with the hands-on exposure to the aircraft."

The Airmen are part of a U.S. military contingent displaying aircraft and equipment at the international air and trade show this week.

The show is hosted every two years and is comprised of nearly 60 civilian and military aircraft and vehicle demonstrations, and flying and static displays from some of the biggest names in aviation and the defense industry.

Beck and his crew enjoyed showing off the aircraft and discussing its peacetime and combat role around the world.

"We're a force enabler. Our tanker allows both tactical and strategic aircraft to perform sustained operations," Beck said. "We perform limited cargo and aeromedical evacuation missions, but our primary role is to refuel aircraft in flight."

Beck's crew is also enjoying their interaction with members of the South Africa National Defense Air Force.

"It's not difficult to create streamlined processes. The uniforms may be different, but for pilots, the language is the same," Beck said.

The Stratotanker joins a C-17 Globemaster III, a cargo and troop transport aircraft from the 105th Airlift Wing, Steward Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, N. Y. and a KC 130J from the Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron, Cherry Point Air Station, N.C. on display.