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940 ARW Aides in Rescue

Rescue Mission

Lt. Col. Travis Rhode, a 314th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, does the pre-flight checks for a training mission that turned into a part in a rescue mission on Nov. 22, 2021. The KC-135 Stratotanker provided air refueling to an HC-130J Combat King II that dropped a pararescue team into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Los Angeles to provide medical care to an injured person on a container ship. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Alexis Pentzer)

Rescue Mission

A KC-135 Stratotanker with the 314th Air Refueling Squadron at Beale Air Force Base taxis down the runway for a rescue mission Nov. 22, 2021. The unit was preparing for a routine training mission when a call for help on a rescue mission came in. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman Julianna Londono)

Rescue Mission

A KC-135 Stratotanker with the 314th Air Refueling Squadron at Beale Air Force Base takes off to aide in a rescue mission off the coast of Southern California. A worker on a container ship was injured, a HC-130J Combat King II dropped a pararescue team to provide medical care. The crew of the tanker provided in flight air refueling to the aircraft that brought the rescue team in. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Alexis Pentzer)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

It was a normal training day on Monday Nov. 22 for the 314th Air Refueling Squadron with the 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beale Air Force Base in California when the phone rang at 11 a.m.; the caller asking for help.

According to Lt. Col. Travis Rhodes, a 314th ARS pilot, there was an injured worker on a container ship off the coast of Los Angeles. A rescue mission involving the HC-130J Combat King II from the 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California, was generated to drop an Air Force Pararescue team onto the ship to help stabilize the patient and get them to further care.

“The mission with our KC-135 Stratotanker was to refuel the HC-130J so they could make it to their destination and drop the rescue team,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said he and the crew made up of three pilots and four boom operators were at the jet getting ready to go on a normal training mission when they got the call about this mission. Behind the scenes the current operations team and extra crew members did a fantastic job coordinating the details with the receiver and providing a mission for the crew to execute.

“Once we heard the sortie had officially changed, we coordinated with the receiver, generated new mission materials, increased the fuel load on the jet, re-briefed, accomplished our preflight, and were airborne in about two hours,” said Rhodes. “It was truly an amazing feat from all involved including our current operations, maintainers and crew members.”

Rhodes explained the KC-135 Stratotanker rendezvoused with the HC-130J roughly 200 nautical miles off the coast of Los Angeles.  Then they proceeded south with the receiver an additional 500 nautical miles into the pacific ocean to conduct the final refueling. The crew took off at 12 p.m. and landed at 6:30 p.m., the whole mission lasted six and a half hours. The boom operators ended up working two air refuelings over the span of almost two hours, and passed roughly 19,000 pounds of fuel.

“I think we can all agree it was exciting to get notified of a real world tasking that needed our help,” said Rhodes. “Especially since when we showed up to work that morning, we thought it was a routine training flight. The entire crew and team did an excellent job flexing to make it all happen.”

Capt. Brenden Valenti, chief of current operations for the 314th ARS, said the injured person was taken to a Mexican Airfield near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where they received further medical care.  As of now the worker is in stable condition.

Wing commander Col. Erik Aufderheide said, “The dedication and flexibility of our airmen was on display here and proven successful. The rescue could not have happened without the support and kerosene from the devoted men and women of the 940th ARW!”