Twenty-five Thousand Connections

A KC-135 tanker with the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron flew the unit’s 25,000th tanker sortie over Afghanistan, setting a single-theater record for tanker support, according to unit officials. The squadron operates out of the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. “The men and women of the 22nd EARS have worked non-stop throughout the past 10 years to deliver fuel to our coalition receivers,” said outgoing squadron boss Lt. Col. Peter Tschohl, at the change-of command ceremony a day before the May 4 milestone flight. Like its mule mascot, “the 22nd EARS has stubbornly labored to safely and efficiently fuel the fight despite harsh winter and other ops-related challenges,” said Col. Brian Newberry, commander of Manas’ 376th Expeditionary Operations Group. Since deploying to Manas in 2002, the squadron’s sortie rate has steadily grown—swelling 23 percent last year alone, said unit leaders. The 22nd EARS currently supplies one-third of total coalition air refueling in theater, noted unit officials. (Manas report by SrA. Lynsie Nichols)