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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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The KC-135R "Stratotanker" - our transportation for the day.
The KC-135R "Stratotanker" - our transportation for the day.

Flying high in a KC-135R

I’ve flown in airplanes plenty of times, but I’ve never taken a quick flight to Missouri and Colorado to refuel an airplane until two days ago.

On Wednesday, the 128th Air Refueling Wing hosted media day. Myself and other select reporters were given the opportunity to fly on the Screamin' Eagle and watch the refueling of a B-2 Spirit.

Refueling an airplane 35,000 feet up is much different than taking a flight to Disney World.

Before we could spread our wings, the pilots briefed us on the plane were flying in and the plane we’d be refueling. We flew in a KC-135R. The inside of this 83,000-pound machine was lined with red seats facing each other. Adjusting to the altitude change and heat blowing in and out, we flew for about an hour and half before meeting the B-2s.

When our plane was in refueling range with the B-2 we got to lie down in the boom pod where the refueling took place. I was lucky enough to see the plane fly right into position and attach to the beam where the fuel came in.

The B-2 looked like an UFO. Used as a multi-role bomber, the shape was wide, flat, sophisticated and stealth-like. This bomber is completely foreign to any other plane I’ve seen or been on before. Most people will never see one of these planes in their life, and I was lucky enough to be just feet away from it in mid-air.

The refueling process took about 40 minutes to complete. We refueled two B-2s and captured some amazing photographs. I thought that after five pictures of the same plane I’d clicked enough, but the plane was so incredible that I just wanted to keep capturing the moment. As fast as the B-2s arrived they were gone, as if they were sent on a stealth mission across the globe.

Flying home from our quick trip out west, all I could think about was what an awesome and dangerous job this is. Members of the Air National Guard are trained to refuel planes used in dangerous missions. With Armed Forces Week coming up, this opportunity definitely reminded me to acknowledge and thank the crew that took us on our own safe mission.

Armed Forces Week, May 11-19, honors and acknowledges the people of the Armed Forces of the United States. There are lots of events planned to celebrate, most of which are open to the public, such as a golf outing, a military display and the annual Support the Troops ride and ceremony.

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