Sixty members of the aerial refueling tanker group that have been volunteering for duty in the Persian Gulf since Aug. 6 are now on active duty and are awaiting word on when they will leave Salt Lake City.
The Utah Air National Guard's 151st Aerial Refueling Group has been on alert status since Dec. 13 and was notified Thursday that 12 air crews and all eight of the group's KC-135E tankers are now on active duty and under the direct control of the Strategic Air Command.Crew positions involved are pilots, co-pilots, navigators, boom operators and crew chiefs.
The call-up is the group's first since 1951. "We take a great deal of pride in the fact that we have been players in virtually every national emergency since our formation in 1948, but usually it is on a volunteer basis," said Col. Gordon Hill, group commander.
Air crews from the 151st have been flying volunteer missions in the Middle East since just four days after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait Aug. 2.
On Dec. 11, 12 members of the Air National Guard's crash, fire and rescue section were called to active duty and sent to California to replace Air Force crews that had been sent to the Middle East.
"Extensive efforts have been made to provide support to families of those activated by this order," Hill said. "We are also notifying employers of those who have been activated about re-employment rights."
Unlike the Army National Guard, the Air Guard will not report first toFort Carson, Colo., which has seen several thousand Utah National Guard and Army Reserve troops since Operation Desert Shield began. The group does not know whether it will be sent to the Persian Gulf, where some of its members have been operating since Aug. 6, said Maj. Bob Nelson of the Utah Air National Guard.
The eight tankers involved are military versions of the Boeing 707 and were built in the late 1950s. They can transfer fuel to other aircraft in flight, extending the flying range of both fighter jets and larger bombers and cargo jets.