By Tech. Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams, 940th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 25, 2021
The “Grizzly” artwork is displayed on one of eight KC-135 Stratotankers belonging to the 940th Air Refueling Wing June 13, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The Grizzly is an original nose art with a historical tie to the return of the wing’s refueling mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams)
(left to right) Tech. Sgt. Curtis T. Gentry, 940th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, along with Staff Sgt. Dane Hagbom, 940 AMXS assistant crew chief, and Senior Airman Kemari Williamson, 940 AMXS crew chief, tells Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Pennington about their decision for the KC-135 Stratotankers nose artwork June 13, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base California. Pennington, Fourth Air Force commander, was visiting from March Air Reserve Base, California. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams)
The crew chiefs assigned to the 940th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135 Stratotanker, Grizzly, stand with leadership from the wing, Fourth Air Force and Air Force Reserve Command June 13, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Grizzly is the wing’s seventh nose art to be unveiled, with one more planned for early next year. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams)
Airmen from the 940th Air Refueling Wing, Fourth Air Force and Air Force Reserve Command pose with the unit’s newest KC-135 Stratotanker nose art, "Grizzly," June 13, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Grizzly was unveiled during the June unit training assembly. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Tara R. Abrahams)
The 940th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron unveiled its seventh nose art, “Grizzly,” June 13, 2021, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The bear and the artwork itself are new, but the grizzly has a historical reference tied in.
Beale’s air refueling mission went away after the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2008, but was returned in 2016. At that time, the previous flying mission’s call sign, “TAHOE,” had been adopted by Travis Air Force Base, California, so they utilized “GRZLY” until they could reclaim their old one.
This was not the only reason the Grizzly artwork came about. As with all nose arts, the choice starts with the crew. Tech. Sgt. Curtis T. Gentry, 940 AMXS dedicated crew chief, wanted his jet to stand for everyone who works on it.
“If I could just put all of our names up there, I would,” he said.
Gentry has been assigned to this particular jet for two years and had been asked what he wanted on the nose ever since. But he and the other crew chiefs often work on the KC-135 Stratotankers in the fleet. This was especially true while the majority of the 940th Air Refueling Wing maintainers were deployed last year.
With that, he said he did not feel like he “owned” this jet and was not rushing to choose its artwork. Once the group of deployers were back home and the workflow started to even out, Gentry started getting asked what he wanted to put on the nose again.
He didn’t know where to start. Other DCCs revived older nose arts, like “El Diablo,” and “Let’s Roll!” He considered bringing back “Mallard 1,” but felt the duck holding a gun would have been too violent. Eventually he decided to make something original and the rest of the crew agreed.
He and his crew started coming up with ideas.
“I wanted to incorporate a grizzly bear because of the state flag of California,” Gentry said. “I didn’t want it to be too violent or too cartoony.”
Gentry and the other crew chiefs bounced ideas off of each other. They talked about the possibility of a boxing bear or bear with honey and jet fuel, but those did not stick. It was difficult for Gentry to decide exactly what he wanted, and since he doesn’t consider himself an artist, he had to find someone else to draw the bear.
The plan started to come together after another 940 AMXS DCC, Master Sgt. Joe Simpson, suggested an artist named Ipung Frachrizal from Singapore. The three of them began talking about the nose are ideas and what Gentry did and didn’t want.
“Can I get the bear to rip through the aircraft's skin?”
It turned out exactly as he asked. The Grizzly’s artwork depicts the bear with its mouth open and a few scratch marks from its claws as it tears through the nose.
The eighth and final nose art dedication is being planned for early 2022.