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Team Fairchild’s 93rd ARS conducts sole KC-135 refugee evacuation during OAR

U.S. Air Force Capt. Erik Clark, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot, Capt. Brady Miner, 93rd ARS KC-135 co-pilot, and Senior Airmen Riley Shin, 93rd ARS boom operator pose in front of a KC-135 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Dec. 2, 2021. Their crew received the task to evacuate nearly 20 refugees at a location only their aircraft could land during Operation Allies Refuge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jenna A. Bond)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Erik Clark, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot, Capt. Brady Miner, 93rd ARS KC-135 co-pilot, and Senior Airmen Riley Shin, 93rd ARS boom operator pose in front of a KC-135 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Dec. 2, 2021. Their crew received the task to evacuate nearly 20 refugees at a location only their aircraft could land during Operation Allies Refuge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jenna A. Bond)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

Team Fairchild’s 93rd Air Refueling Squadron conducted the only KC-135 Stratotanker evacuation of refugees fleeing Afghanistan during Operation Allies Refuge on Sept. 10, 2021.

Capt. Erik Clark, Capt. Brady Miner and Senior Airman Riley Shin, 93rd ARS KC-135 aircrew, received the task to evacuate nearly 20 refugees at a location only their aircraft could access at that moment.

“Getting to land at an airfield that no KC-135 has ever landed was quite an experience,” said Clark, who was the aircraft commander during the mission. “The best memories I have from that day easily come from watching the individuals we were picking up walking out and waving at us, smiles on their faces, kids holding hands and skipping because they knew they were getting transported to safety.”

As the dissolution of Afghan forces rapidly continued, speed and coordination of the mission was imperative. With a short timeline, the team in charge of the Fairchild KC-135 crew adapted and quickly completed the various waivers and approvals needed to conduct the mission.

“Our staff worked tirelessly throughout the night to make sure we had everything we could possibly need when we showed up in the morning,” Clark said. “The runway and taxiways were not wide enough, per our regulation, for us to land there, but due to the importance of this task, these waivers were granted and the extra risk was accepted so that we could get those people to safety.”

On a KC-135, boom operators are not only essential to performing air refueling missions, they are also responsible for the safety of passengers and fellow crew members during an operation. For Shin, the mission’s boom operator, the urgency and timeline posed as her biggest challenge.

“I think the hardest thing about the mission for me was the suddenness of it all,” Shin said. “My role was to take care of everyone in the back, make sure they were comfortable and safe. I was able to pass out boxed meals for our passengers and ensure their flight went smooth.”

OAR spanned over 17 days with nearly 800 civilian and military aircraft from over 30 countries conducting one of the largest evacuations in global history.

“The mission itself had a lot of importance to our squadron,” said Miner, the aircraft’s co-pilot. “Everyone in the squadron knew of the mission and our leadership was right alongside us every step of the way before takeoff to assist in any way possible.”

Fairchild’s Airmen played an important role in executing this historical operation and the evacuation of more than 124,000 American citizens and vulnerable Afghans.

“It was such a great experience to actually be a very small part of it,” said Clark. “I am glad that we got the mission and I am honored to be one of the pilots to execute the mission.”