TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan: The Transit Center’s final aerial refueling mission over Afghanistan landed here Feb. 24, completing the end of an era.
After six hours of traveling, refueling A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F-16 Fighting Falcons, the KC-135 Stratotanker touched down to a fanfare of saluting Airmen.
Col. Mike Seiler, the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, piloted the historical flight.
“It’s pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” Seiler said. “When (I) think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one–fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”
Over the last 12.5 years here, KC-135s flew 33,500 sorties that led to 135,000 aircraft refueled with more than 12.2 billion gallons of fuel delivered, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
“I wish there was an honest way to track how many times a tanker mission has directly affected troops on the ground, ” Seiler said.
Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Bishop, the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron superintendent, was the boom for the final mission.
“It all comes down to people … Airmen with a big ‘A,'” Bishop said. “This team — I would go to war with them anytime.”