Just down the New Jersey Turnpike, right off of Trenton, is the large base complex known as Joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. One of the main depots for Allied Forces deploying to Europe during World War 2, the neighboring Ft Dix united with the other services to form the current make up of this large base. This base is more commonly known as McGuire AFB.

The US Air Mobility Command is in charge of the logistic side of the US Air Force. That means that they coordinate and facilitate the transportation of various item to and from the battlefield during wartime and to the theatre of operations during peace time.

It is safe to say that 305th Air Mobility Wing houses the core elements needed for Air Mobility. Along with the C-17 Globemaster, it commands the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron operating the KC-10. Known as the “Extender”, the Squadron’s aircraft are key to providing US Forces with everything they need around the Globe and part of extending the USAF’s reach. Their callsign “Can Do” is a fitting motto to the job they are tasked with.

The 32nd’s main mission is providing other USAF and partner aircraft with fuel, this allows all elements of the force Global reach in shortened periods of time. Deployments reported recently of the US Military and its aircraft heading to the European theatre and the recent evacuation of Afghanistan all demand a potent logistical backbone, this is what the 32nd KC-10s provide.

The 32nd is comprised of pilots, boom operators (refuelers) and maintenance crew chiefs, all work tirelessly to keep these aircraft in the air. While the age of the aircraft in service is rapidly approaching 50, the men and women that serve in the Squadron, for the most part, are half that age.

In conversation with some of these young airmen we discovered that they were drawn to the US Air Force from childhood, with many having a young passion for aviation and even more that have military service members in their family.

If the previous generation of aviators grew up on Top Gun, this new generation clearly shows how social media can make a difference in recruitment. SSgt Rosendo Garcia whom we spoke with, says without a doubt one thing motivated him towards becoming a boom operator, Youtube. “Watching those videos on the internet from the KC10’s unique vantage point, that made me want to join the Air Force and do just that”.

Flying in the KC10 is a unique experience, the aircraft which was originally designed as a commercial airliner in the 1960s, first flew in 1970 and joined the US Air Force in 1980 is something of a classic.
With today’s aircraft being fully digitized and computerized, the KC10 ‘s cockpit is full of gauges and switches. This is unique, and most pilots will acknowledge that there is more “feel” to the flying than in new commercial airliners.

Throughout the flight we had the opportunity to see how the crew worked together cohesively and troubleshoot any issue that came up.

Leading our mission were Capt. Alicia Canetta and Capt. Phil O’sullivan. Capt. Canetta got her pilot’s license during College and utilized the ROTC program to join the Air Force. Today she is an Instructor Pilot on the KC-10. Capt Canetta is not the only member of her family to fly for the military, her brother is a U.S Marine Corps Helicopter pilot, so the passion for military aviation seems to run in the family.

For Capt O’sullivan this flight was bittersweet since it was his last on the Extender. As the USAF moves towards the KC-46, more pilots within the KC-10 community will start to transition to new roles or new aircraft.

In the KC-10 we refueled was Capt Kevin Cabusora, Capt Cabusora is probably fits the typecast of what most people would probably think an Air Force Pilot would look like, well articulated, tall and a million dollar smile, he grew up going to airshows with his dad. Like Capt Canetta, his family is a military one, his sister actually flies within the Air Mobility community and is a C-17 Globemaster Pilot.

For these Men and Women, flying as part of a KC-10 squadron means that on average they will fly once or twice a week, generally spending the time they aren’t flying to plan for their upcoming flight. Training missions usually take about 5-6 hours which is what it may take to get to London or Paris if you were flying Commercial.

For the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron, their men and women may not fly commercial while at work, but their destinations are usually farther and more exciting when called to action.

credit: Yissachar Ruas
credit: Yissachar Ruas
credit: Yissachar Ruas
credit: Yissachar Ruas
credit: Yissachar Ruas
credit: Yissachar Ruas