MACDILL AFB, Fla. The 91st Air Refueling Squadron, along with KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in early December 2019.
This marks the first time the entire 91st ARS deployed together as a squadron to support rapid global mobility and aerial refueling efforts overseas, marking a historic milestone for the time-tested unit.
“I’ve deployed multiple times before, but never how we are deploying now,” said Capt. Ali Rizvi, 91st ARS executive officer and pilot. “In the past, we deployed as crews, so we’d travel with an aircraft and join up with crews from places like McConnell [AFB, Kansas] or Fairchild Air Force Base, [Washington].”
Rizvi explained that with previous deployments, it was one thing to build bonds with other KC-135 Stratotanker crews from around Air Mobility Command, but it’s something else to deploy with the men and women he sees every day while at home station.
“Once we’re overseas, our missions will be just like we trained together for, which is awesome,” said Rizvi.
Maj. Mark Puffenbarger, a 91st ARS pilot, added that unit cohesion will help keep the deployment a simple process despite it occurring during the holiday season.
“Since we’re all deploying before the holidays, our brothers and sisters with the 50th Air Refueling Squadron and members throughout 6th Operations Group have come in to support our families and friends while we’re away,” said Puffenbarger.
From aircrew flight equipment preparing dozens of chemical suits, to the 6th OG working tirelessly to load pallets with equipment, and install them on the KC-135s, support came from units all over MacDill.
Before their deployment, the fall festival event, allowed the 91st ARS members to bring their families together to network, and learn about support agencies that can assist with anything while their loved ones are away.
“The support we received going into our deployment preparation, all the way until we stepped to the aircraft to take off has been overwhelming,” said Rivzi. “Not every deployment can be easy, so to know my family is in good hands while I’m away is a lot of stress I don’t have to worry about.”