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Home : News
NEWS | Aug. 20, 2012

Kyrgyzstan: Hawaii Air National Guard refuelers bring spirit of 'Aloha', fuel to the fight

By Staff Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, U.S. Air Force U.S. Air Force Central

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan - Even while deployed, members of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 203rd Air Refueling Squadron like to bring the spirit of "Aloha" with them. On their previous deployment to Turkey, the 203rd ARS members brought crates of fresh pineapple to give out. On this deployment, they brought another Hawaiian tradition -- chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

"Wherever we go we always want to have something to give," said Air Force Capt. Michael Curtis, an aircraft commander with the unit. "Our guys always get to know everybody, and I don't know if it is because we are from Hawaii, but we are pretty laid back and easy going. We just want to show those who are helping us out that we appreciate them. It is as simple as the Airman who gave us a ride to the flight line. (Our aircrew) ran back and gave her the box of candies."

However, it is not just random acts of Hawaiian kindness the Airmen are performing on their deployment. The group is one of the many crews who fly the KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan to provide aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft.

"Basically, we take off over the country and we have certain refueling areas," Curtis said. "We provide fuel to the aircraft that are in those areas."

It starts with the troops with the boots on the ground. If they are having a bad day, the Joint Terminal Attack Controller coordinates with the fighter pilots who provide armed over watch or strikes if needed.

"But those planes burn fuel fast and in order to stay in the air, they need more fuel. "And, that is where we come in," Curtis said.

For Curtis and his aircrew members, they've flown 43 sorties in 60 days and logged nearly 300 flying hours. And their Hawaiian spirit has been noticed by others they serve with.

"The 203rd ARS crew has the Hawaiian spirit," said Lt. Col. Russell Davis, commander of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. "But most importantly they bring an atmosphere of Ohana, which means family in Hawaiian."

That sense of family includes their extended Air Force family as well.

"Showing up for a flight, they always warmly greet their maintainers and have a short conversation," said Davis. "There is always a handshake or shoulder bump, which is unique to a Hawaiian unit. A lot of my crews have that teamwork, but the Hawaiian crew has a high level of cohesion and teamwork that you don't see in most units. They are family and are connected."

The same connection is what keeps them safe on their flying missions.

"We have flown together for a while, and you are able to know the guy next to you limits and capabilities," Curtis said.

The team always has to keep talking to each other to keep everyone on the same page.

"We all have to work together," said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Ishiki, a pilot with the 203rd ARS. "Everyone has an equal setting. There is no rank per say. We each have our specific jobs and we always have a line of communication."

It is the same family mentality that helps keeps each other motivated.

"I look to my crew to bring me up, and for me to bring them up when they need it," said Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Faurott, a boom operator with the unit. "If we work as a crew, not as an individual, there is nothing we can't overcome."