Legacy of 56th Airlift Squadron Lives on With Arrival of KC-46 to 97 AMW

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Kyle Kremer
  • 97 AMW/PA

It is an exciting time for Altus Air Force Base and the greater Altus community with the arrival of the long-awaited KC-46A Pegasus. As a former squadron commander at the 97th Air Mobility Wing and now as the Director for Global Reach Programs for the Air Force, I have a unique connection to both the acquisition and fielding of the KC-46 as well as the legacy of the squadron that will train mobility Airmen to operate and employ this incredible aircraft.

In 2005, I took command of the 56th Airlift Squadron, leading the C-5 Galaxy schoolhouse. During my command, the decision was made to move the C-5 formal training unit to the Air Force Reserve in 2007, making me the last commander of the 56th before it was deactivated.

The C-5 had been at Altus Air Force Base since 1969, becoming an iconic part of the Altus skyline and the airspace surrounding it. I can still recall the view of the mighty C-5 looking back down Avenue F at me after a sortie as I was pumping gas at the Shopette. 

I am incredibly proud to have been a part of the legacy of mobility training excellence at Altus. The men and women of “Jumbo Country” provided superior training for the Total Force C-5 aircrew: pilots, loadmasters and engineers, for 38 years. Their innovation and motivation to continually improve the training program produced the highest quality, mission-ready aircrew members prepared to support operations upon reaching their assigned units.

My family and I have very fond memories of our time at Altus and we were sad to leave when our tour was over. To this day it remains one of our most memorable assignments. We didn’t know what to expect coming into lower Oklahoma, but were amazed by the overwhelming community support. The Altus Military Affairs Committee and community leadership is truly a benchmark for others to follow and we look forward to reuniting with them at each opportunity.

When the Air Force announced Altus would host the schoolhouse for the KC-46, I was elated to learn that the 56th would rise again as the 56th Air Refueling Squadron, continuing the legacy of training excellence at Altus. The heritage of the squadron is a noteworthy part of the heritage of the base. I am excited to see it continue long into the future, transforming training and now revolutionizing the air refueling mission.  

The KC-46 is much more than an aerial refueling platform and brings more overall capability to the warfighter than any tanker aircraft before it. Beyond the core refueling mission, it will provide improved aeromedical evacuation capability and serve as a critical node in multi-domain networked operations. It is the aircraft the warfighter will want if they are in a high-end fight.

The United States military is unmatched in our ability to rapidly project power anywhere across the globe. Other countries may have similar functional capabilities, but nobody can project forces anywhere on the globe, rapidly and in mass, like the United States…nobody. The reason for that is the Rapid Global Mobility of our Air Force, enabled by air refueling.

From the A-10 Thunderbolt II to the F-35 Lightning II and every fighter/bomber in between, they don’t get to the fight and no bombs are dropped or enemy aircraft intercepted without air refueling. Even with the tremendous mission legs of the C-5 and C-17 Globemaster III, air refueling ensures we can transport everything from humanitarian aid to combat forces directly to the point of need without having to stop at staging bases in other countries along the way. The KC-46 is going to take this capability to another level with increased capability, readiness and survivability.

I have witnessed firsthand the critical role that Altus plays in enabling rapid global mobility for our Nation by training the finest mobility Airmen in the world. Now, in my current role as the Director for Global Reach Programs, I am excited to do my part to help provide them the most capable mobility platforms in the world to execute that mission. The KC-46 is the next big step in that effort. We still have a long journey ahead of us as we recapitalize and modernize the fleet, but I am encouraged by the incredible capability coming our way and by the outstanding Airmen who will find even more impressive ways to employ it.

I am proud to see the legacy of the 56th Airlift Squadron lives on at Altus as the torch is passed to the 56th Air Refueling Squadron and the KC-46 schoolhouse. Novi aut peri!