FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
Fairchild Air Force Base reactivated the 97th Air Refueling Squadron that has been deactivated for 15 years, along with an Assumption of Command ceremony Oct. 18, here.
The reactivation is due to an increase of KC-135 Stratotankers being transferred to Fairchild along with more than 400 Airmen and their families.
Fairchild was chosen to support the new squadron and tankers due to a multitude of factors, including infrastructure, local area, current operations and much more.
“Fairchild is the perfect fit for these new tankers because of our demonstrated capability to provide responsive air refueling across the globe,” said Col. Derek Salmi, 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander, in a previous article. “Through hard work and dedication, our Airmen have established Fairchild as the Air Refueling Center of Excellence and we will continue to carry forth this legacy as the world’s largest tanker wing.”
The new squadron will expand Fairchild’s mission of Global Reach, and enhance its lethality and capabilities as the world’s largest air refueling wing.
“[Fairchild] will be a strategic hub for KC-135 refueling operations for decades to come,” said Maj. Gen. Sam Barrett, 18th Air Force commander, during a meeting with Fairchild AFB Airmen earlier this year. “It’s extraordinary that we take these weapon systems, with our innovative Airmen, and employ them all around the word with near-perfect mission execution. This base is truly the center of excellence for the KC-135.”
The squadron was deactivated 15 years ago in 2004. This ceremony marked the reactivation of the new squadron, however, activities for squadron members have already begun.
“We have been working very hard to set up our squadron, with a new building and new furniture, setting up our processes, [all while] we have already received taskings to send our Airmen downrange to support the fight,” Dawson said. “We have a lot to do to get our squadron operating like a normal day-to-day squadron, but the fight doesn’t stop. We are jumping right in to being part of that.”
The 97 ARS has over 70 years of history. It was previously a bomber squadron, and was one of the first Air Force air refueling units in 1949.
“The tankers are one of our most strategic assets for the Air Force,” Dawson said. “We have fantastic fighters and bombers that can bring air power anywhere in the world, but they can only get there with the help of tankers.”
The squadron’s new commander is eager to lead her Airmen to success.
“It is hard to describe my excitement; this is really an amazing squadron and to be part of that is remarkable,” Dawson said. “To have the opportunity to lead our Airmen into that experience, I get the opportunity to shape how we build ourselves and define our squadron.”