Recently arrived Airmen from the 168th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, carry luggage off a KC-135R Stratotanker at Ørland Air Station, Norway, March 5.

USAF Stratotankers provide air refueling capabilities for exercise

ØRLAND AIR STATION, NORWAY – The air refueling capabilities for exercise Cold Response 20 are fully operational at Ørland Air Station, Norway, with the arrival of KC-135R Stratotankers assigned to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

Cold Response is a Norwegian national readiness and defense exercise, with participation from each of Norway’s military services, as well as eight additional NATO allied nations and regional partners. The U.S. Air Force’s KC-135R Stratotankers extend missions by providing aerial refueling for U.S., ally and partner aircraft.

Maj. Jared Alden, chief of plans and programs for the 100th Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, is the acting air-to-air refueling detachment commander for Cold Response 20. He said his excitement grew steadily through his involvement in planning the exercise.

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“It’s a great opportunity to work with the Norwegians and a few of our other NATO allies and partners, and an opportunity to test our capabilities up this far north in a European country without the home station support we’re used to,” Alden said. “The integration between the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command and active duty forces is going to be second to none.”

The majority of the aircraft maintenance team assigned to the exercise is being provided by the 168th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard, with Chief Master Sgt. Philip Newton, 168th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent, acting as the production superintendent.

Working with 30% less manning than what is normal for a mission, the support from the Norwegian Armed Forces has been phenomenal, Newton said. He added the 16th Wing gaining valuable experience deploying their jets to an air base with limited support capability, standing up a mission there, and operating out of it.

“It’s just cool to come here, work with our NATO ally, and generate missions at a Forward Operating Base with minimum support,” Newton said. “The idea wasn’t for us to gain experience on cold weather operations, but to teach other … By coming here, with (Tinker AFB) and (RAF) Mildenhall integrating with us, it’s an opportunity to show them how this is done in an exercise environment.”

Alden praised the 168th Wing’s maintenance package because it brings invaluable teamwork and knowledge to the table.

“These guys bringing in their maintenance team, with their experience and ease of operating in the cold and snowy conditions is absolutely a huge value,” Alden said.

The Cold Response 20 air refueling mission is expected to offload 12 million pounds of fuel to U.S. Air Force, NATO ally and regional partner aircraft.

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