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U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Trenga
Airman Surpasses 10,000th Hour in Stratotanker
By Maj. Ann P. Knabe
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Nov. 17, 2006 — Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Trenga won't soon forget what he was doing Nov. 6 at 4:15 p.m.  The in-flight refueling technician from Pittsburgh reached a significant milestone in his military career at this precise moment, hitting 10,000 flying hours in a KC-135 Stratotanker.

With more than 30 years of flying under his belt, the deployed guardsman's time in the military exceeds the average age of most airmen on this base. 

"Tony's the only person I've known who's ever flown 10,000 hours in a refueler," said Maj. Jason Luhn, a 171st Air Refueling Wing pilot. "I was just thrilled to be on the same crew with him when he hit this great accomplishment."

Trenga hit his 10,000th hour while flying with pilot Luhn and aircraft commander Capt. Walter Ransom. All three airmen are members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and fly as a cohesive crew with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in Southwest Asia.

"Guardsmen bring immense experience to the fight," said Lt. Col. Bryan Crutchfield, 340th EARS commander, commenting on how many of today's guardsmen have served in several conflicts. "This flying experience benefits the squadron as a whole, and Tony's years of service and corporate knowledge demonstrate this perfectly."

Trenga's experience came in handy on the flight in which he surpassed 10,000 flying hours.

Shortly after takeoff, the crew realized the cabin wasn't becoming pressurized. The problem was traced to an auxiliary power unit door that wasn't secure.

"If the cabin doesn't become pressurized, we can't reach our cruise altitude," Ransom said. "And that's where the refueling takes place - at the higher altitudes."

The crew had two options: dump the gas and lose a combat sortie or try to remedy the problem as quickly as possible. Trenga chose the latter.

"The issue was timing," said the sergeant. "The more quickly we fixed it, the more quickly we could move back into the fight." The crew descended the aircraft to 10,000 feet so it could be depressurized. Once the aircraft was depressurized, Trenga managed to cycle the door open and closed among noisy winds whipping through the APU.

It wasn't an easy feat. Because the aircraft was depressurized, it wasn't as "strong" as a fully pressured plane. Similar to an intact egg that's missing an egg yolk, a depressurized KC-135 lacks a high level of structural integrity.
Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Trenga, an in-flight refueling technician, has flown more than 10,000 hours during his 34-year career. He is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron in Southwest Asia. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Franklin Hayes

The amplified noise level was also distracting with all the air rushing out though the APU.

"Imagine driving 300 mph in a car and having a window open with wind whipping around," said Ransom. "That's what Tony was working in."

Despite the adverse conditions, Trenga successfully closed the door and the aircraft flew on to perform its role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"By resolving the problem and continuing with the flight, Tony and the crew saved several more combat missions that day," Crutchfield said. "Every KC-135 mission in the AOR is tied to saving lives on the ground -- either directly or indirectly -- so Sergeant Trenga made some very critical decisions on the fly."

Although his service in Southwest Asia has certainly been a highlight in his military career, Trenga has many other memories of deployments.

The 53-year-old airman has served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Allied Force, and a host of other Air Force missions around the world. He's flown on five different stratotanker airframes, including the KC-135 models A, Q, E, R and T. But his initial entry into the service wasn't in operations.

"My goal all along was to fly," he said. "But they rejected that notion in basic training because of my eyesight, and I spent the next four years loading bombs."

Fortunately, Trenga was able to crosstrain into the flying world as a boom operator, where he's remained ever since.

"I'm passionate about my job," he said. "It's a blast, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Hands down, it's the best enlisted job in the Air Force."

Last Updated:
11/17/2006, Eastern Standard Time
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