100th Air Refueling celebrates 20 years at RAF Mildenhall

Boeing KC-135 Stratofortress reading for its next air refuelling mission / © Philip Stevens

Boeing KC-135 Stratofortress reading for its next air refuelling mission / © Philip Stevens

Posted By Philip Stevens

The 100th Air Refueling Wing celebrated its birthday Feb. 1, marking 20 years since the wing returned to East Anglia. The 100th arrived in England Feb. 1, 1992, after being out of the U.K. for 47 years, and was redesignated the 100th Air Refueling Wing.

Its new home, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, is just 23 miles west of its first English home, Thorpe Abbots, said Mark Howell, 100th ARW historian. The 100th ARW also brought along one of its former WWII squadrons, the redesignated 351st Air Refueling Squadron.

Col. Christopher Kulas assumed command of the 100th ARW June 2011. He's serving his second tour at RAF Mildenhall and originally arrived here June 1992, and served as a co-pilot when he was a first lieutenant.

The 100th ARW is a large, diverse organization which conducts air refueling and combat-support operations throughout the European and African areas of responsibility. Its mission was a large one from the its inception.

Shortly after taking on host wing responsibilities from the deactivation of the 513th Airborne Command and Control Wing, the 100th ARW also took on the European Tanker Task Force mission from the 306th Strategic Wing, when it deactivated March 31, 1992, said Howell. This meant the wing would control its own KC-135 Stratotankers, as well as the KC-135s that rotated in and out of RAF Mildenhall under the ETTF.

Later that year, the 100th ARW received the first of its own KC- 135 Stratotankers, which arrived May 22, 1992. The second KC-135 arrived June 2, and the base had its full fleet of nine tankers by September 1992. "The arrival of the wing's first permanent KC- 135 was just in time for the first Air Fete," said Howell. "That was a grand annual air show held on RAF Mildenhall. It was not an unusual event in that regard; however, it was special for the 100th ARW because it was the wing's first time to host the Air Fete."

As a result, the wing invited the members of the original 100th Bomb Group back to England to celebrate the Air Fete with the 100th ARW. "Each Air Fete promoted a theme, and that one celebrated 'Remembered Skies,' which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the U.S. Army Air Force in Great Britain," said Howell.

Currently, the 100th ARW refuels U.S. and partner nation military aircraft over a span of more than 20 million square miles using its 15 assigned KC-135 Stratotankers. The wing further supports more than 10,000 military, civilian, dependent and retiree personnel, including the U.S. Air Forces in Europe U.K. Detachment, and four associated partner units.

During Kulas' first tenure at RAF Mildenhall, he said he participated in Operations Provide Comfort, Northern Watch, Southern Watch and Restore Hope. Between 1992 and 1996, he flew missions for Bosnia Herzegovina and deployed to numerous European bases. In 2011, 100th ARW Airmen were vital to Operations Unified Protector and Odyssey Dawn missions, launched from RAF Mildenhall and various deployed bases. "We flew about 500 missions to refuel approximately 6,000 receivers from 15 different countries," said Kulas.

Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, 3rd Air Force commander, stated appreciation for the 100th ARW's efforts during the operations. The wing provided fuel to U.S. and NATO aircraft, extending the reach of coalition partners. "Operation Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector are a feather in the hat of the U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Air Force," said Gorenc. "The majority of the assets came from Europe, from the nine wings I supervise and it was spectacular."

As the 100th ARW celebrates its 20th birthday, Team Mildenhall Airmen can look back on two decades of successful flying and refuelling missions. The support the 100th ARW provided for USAFE and NATO operations across Europe and Africa was vital to stability in the region.

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Source: Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

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