Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

August 8, 2011 at 7:28am

Deployed crew performs 'unmanned' refueling

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SOUTHWEST ASIA  -- The deployed environment admittedly is a mostly male world. For a day though, a deployed KC-10 Extender crew made it an all-female day, as all four crew positions were held by females, truly making their mission "unmanned."


"I've been in the Air Force for six years and it's almost impossible to get an all-girl flight," said Staff Sgt. Lindy Campbell, a boom operator and flight air refueler for the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. "I've always wanted to do this. We work in a male-dominated career field, so when we figured it was possible to do it here, I jumped at the opportunity. It was nice to fly with my sisters."

One reason it is almost impossible to have an all-female crew in the KC-10 is the fact that Staff Sgt. Sarah Lockley is the only female KC-10 flight engineer in the Air Force.

"It is a very rare occurrence," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Moss, the 908th EARS commander. "While the number of women in the KC-10 has increased over the years, and every crew position has women represented, there is currently only one active-duty female flight engineer in KC-10, so this crew composition is extremely rare."

The KC-10 mission is solely based out of Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. In the case of the female flight, two Airmen from each base made up the team. Campbell, a Sacremento native, is an Air Force Reservist.

"Today's flight was awesome," Lockley said. "We've never had [Airmen from both] Travis and McGuire, [and] active duty and reservists all combined in one flight. It was great to see how other bases and active duty and reservists work together. It was great crew dynamics."

The aircraft commander noticed the group's chemistry was different than normal as well.

"It went well today," said Capt. Lindsey Bauer, 908th EARS, KC-10 aircraft commander. "Nothing against guys, but we had a relaxing time. Having four girls in the cockpit was nice. We were all on the same level. It was a break from guys. We are around them all the time. It was nice to see how all females worked each of their crew positions. The meshing together of our crew went smoothly. I think the female thing had something to do with that."

For the women, the mission wasn't about doing something that's never been done. It was more about bonding and changing things up for a day.

"It wasn't about doing a 'first', although it's rare," said 1st Lt. Jen Carter, 908th EARS, KC-10 pilot. "We usually have no more than two females on a given day. It was a morale booster for us, and today it was a morale booster for the plane we refueled."

Although the flight was special for the women, getting the job done was their top priority. The crew kept busy performing several air refuelings on the mission.

"Our job is very important," Bauer said. "It keeps the war effort going. If we weren't up there able to give them gas, the receivers would have to go back and refuel costing them hours from doing their job. When we told them they were getting refueled by an 'unmanned' KC-10 they laughed and felt special. People were stoked that an all-female crew was giving them gas."

Moss said he noticed a change in his squadron, too.

"All of the women on the crew were absolutely brimming with excitement over this mission," Moss said. "Their enthusiasm was contagious to the other crews as well. Everyone knew how much it meant to them and fully supported their efforts. Anytime an entire unit can get behind the initiative of a few motivated Airmen, everyone wins."

Moss thinks events like this can serve as an example of just how far women have come in the military as well.

"I think it's great," Moss said. "The role of women in the military has increased greatly over the years, and the presence of women in all [Air Force specialty codes] has expanded to the point that sometimes we forget how far they have had to come. However, my young daughter unintentionally reminds me every day that she needs women to look up to; she needs women to prove that nothing is impossible; she needs female role models. I think an all-female crew shows her that another potential obstacle to her dreams no longer exists."

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