Know your role

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

A classic case of the ol' bait and switch.

Every drill weekend, Technical Sgt. Jordi Saunders, Development and Training Flight, chief loads his 30 trainees on a bus and shows them what the Air Force Reserve is like before they ever set foot on an airplane to head to basic training.  

Normally the trainees know where they are headed, but this particular trip was a surprise.

Saunders guided the trainees onto the bus under the ruse that they were headed to the clinic for flu shots.

However, as the bus approached its destination, Saunders stood up and addressed the trainees.

He asked, “Now, who here is afraid of shots?”

A couple of hands slowly rose throughout the bus.

“Okay, now who’s afraid of flying?”

The bus went quiet -- then quickly filled with applause once Saunders revealed the trainees would not be receiving vaccines that day, but instead would be tagging along on a refueling mission.

The 434th Air Refueling Wing directly supports the Air Force’s Global Reach mission, but not everyone has the chance to see it firsthand.

However, Grissom’s Development and Training Flight trainees had the unique opportunity to hitch a ride on a KC-135R Stratotanker to Kansas City, Missouri, March 5, where they saw the mission in action.

The mission at hand that day was the refueling of a B-2 Spirit.

For everyone other than Saunders, this was their first time flying in a military aircraft, but for one, it was their first time flying -- at all.  

Autumn Miller, D&TF trainee, says that she doubted whether or not she was ready and was very nervous when it was announced they would be flying.

Her fears stemmed mostly from not knowing what to expect, but her nerves quickly calmed after she saw how calm everyone else was.

“I’m very lucky to say that my first ever plane ride was on a KC-135R and not just a regular commercial airplane…It definitely gives me a better outlook on what we actually do. Seeing it firsthand puts it better together in my head. This is how we do it, this is what we do, and not just hearing about it,” Miller said.

For a lot of Airmen, hearing about it or seeing an aircraft take off is the closest they get to knowing their role in the mission. Saunders is determined to show trainees how they fit into the mission before they even actually support it.

“For our youngest Airmen, it can be difficult to see their role in the larger picture. We too often lose sight of why we are here, especially if our career field require us to work behind the curtain,” said Saunders.

“By showing the trainees in this part of their journey that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves, it creates a lasting impression that will hopefully stay with them for their entire career.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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