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BLOG - On the Frontlines

By Amy K. Mitchell
USO, Vice President, Publications

"A Little Too Late"

April 22, 2009

Midair refueling. A seemingly logical and time efficient solution to travel, and possibly even global warming. Except that another plane full of fuel has to meet the first plane, so really it's two planes and two fuel tanks being used instead of one. So maybe not helping the environment, but most definitely time efficient as we learned firsthand.

In the middle of the night, our little C-17 linked up with a KC-135 for an AR (Air Refueling mission) to help us along in our travels south and save us a stop. With everyone racked out on stacked cots at the back of the plane (in the Navy they'd be called hot beds), no one noticed the 30 minutes of rapid altitude change and turbulance as the other plane flew over us and then got into position to refuel.

With the tether in place, we were a go. And yes, it looks just like it does in the movies... only live! But after four attempts, the crew knew it wasn't going to work out, the tether line was malfunctioning. So we broke away, changed course, and surprised one of our air bases in the Med in the middle of the night.

Landing on a runway surrounded by fences, guard posts, and very pretty palm trees, we thanked our pilots for the awesome job they did during the AR, and then quick landing.

But the detour wasn't all for naught (and fuel). Once again, Toby hopped off the plane, snapped photos and chatted with our surprised military men and women at the base. They certainly were not expecting us, and least of all, Toby Keith, to appear in the middle of the night.

As our troops know, expect visitors anytime of the night, no matter how late it might be.