Face of Defense: Boom Operator Reaches 8,000-hour Milestone
By Air Force Senior Airman Colin Cates
379th Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA, July 28, 2014 Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Floyd W. Atkins, a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, has reached 8,000 refueling hours in his career, a rare feat for a boom operator.
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Floyd W. Atkins refuels a B-1B Lancer over Afghanistan, July 17, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colin Cates
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The milestone signifies the love for what I do," Atkins said. "Reaching the 8,000 hours means I have been blessed to maintain good health -- good enough to remain on flying status for 28-plus years."
Atkins said he hopes to reach the 8,765 hour mark, which would equal one full year of flying time. “I think I will have to get a patch that says 1-50 since I will probably be 50 when I reach that mark," he added.
But just like every other boom operator, he said, he had to start somewhere.
"The feeling as a young boom operator was one of amazement," Atkins said. "I couldn't believe the Air Force was letting me do this for a living. One of my first missions was refueling the Thunderbird just after arriving at my first duty station. It's got to be the greatest job ever."
Now, he said, he has the privilege of seeing the new faces in the boom operator career field and relives some of the same feelings he had as a young boom.
"Being a boom is special -- no two days are the same, and again it's a rush of excitement at times,” he said. “Now it's fun to watch a brand-new boom refuel and get excited, and see that same look on their face that I had over 20 years ago.”
Early in his career, Atkins said, he never gave much thought to how many hours he had. “To me, I was just doing what I enjoyed and never worried about the hours," he explained. "Only recently has it become interesting as people are amazed by the number of hours I have logged."
Along with racking thousands of hours in the sky, Atkins has earned a degree and spends time with his wife and two children.
"In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family," he said. "We are huge Tennessee Volunteers fans, and I love watching football. We all love to travel, as well. So when not traveling with work, I am often traveling with the family."
When he’s not deployed, the Knoxville, Tennessee, native works close to home with the 151st Air Refueling Squadron on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee.
"As far back as I can remember, I've wanted to fly and travel," Atkins said. "This career has been perfect for that, but, it is the friends, experiences, and the variety that keeps me doing this year after year."
Atkins said he has been able to see the world and enjoy experiences that transcend the hours he has logged.
"As I reflect back, the Air Force and Air National Guard have given me everything they promised and more," Atkins said. "I've covered a lot of ground in those 8,000 hours."