305th Airmen Execute ‘Elephant Walk’ In Stride

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Members of the 32nd and 2nd Air Refueling Squadrons participated in the Employment Defense and Global Engagement exercise on December 20, 2011 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. (Official U.S. Air Force photo)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST – The 305th Air Mobility Wing completed its first ‘Elephant Walk’ in nearly five years, launching all 12 KC-10 Extenders on the ramp, one right after the other, in a 30-minute time period on Dec. 20.

The ‘Elephant Walk’ is a display of air power showcasing the 305th AMW’s contributions to Air Mobility Command. Air refuelers are the lifeline of global reach, increasing range, payload and flexibility. Air Force tankers can also refuel Navy, Marine and NATO aircraft and have an inherent cargo-carrying capability.

“With our high operations tempo and the recent events in Libya, we have been stretched thin, leaving little time to train,” said Lt. Col. Jimmy Shaw, 305th Operations Group deputy commander. “Fortunately the Air Mobility Command is rotating through the tanker units providing us a couple of weeks to focus our efforts on training, maintenance and family.”

An ‘Elephant Walk’ is a fundamental training element when preparing for Global Strike Missions.

“Being able to support a Global Strike Mission is one of our core competencies,” said Col. John Roscoe, 305th OG commander. “It is vital we are able to perform this mission so we can support Global Strike Missions and ultimately the war on terrorism.”

Members of the 32nd and 2nd Air Refueling Squadrons participated in the Employment Defense and Global Engagement exercise on December 20, 2011 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The event included mass simultaneous aerial refueling of four KC-10s by four other KC-10s. (Official U.S. Air Force photo/Pascual Flores)

Global Strike Missions consist of large formations of aircraft flying long distances to reach strategic targets. Tankers, such as the KC-10, launch in large groups to provide an aerial “gas station” for formations. The flying fuel tanks will create a layered affect flying at different altitudes to allow maximum off loading at minimum risk.

“Practicing complex missions such as large-formation refueling makes us just that much better and more capable in situations where we may be called upon,” said Shaw. “The short break from our high operations tempo made today a perfect opportunity to train for such missions.”

The ‘Elephant Walk’ required 160 Airmen from the 305th maintenance and operations groups to work a total of three shifts to complete the mission.

“This is my first ‘Elephant Walk’ training mission here, but I’ve done several in the past.” said Chief Master Sgt. Samuel D’urso, 305th OG superintendent, “The maintainers and flight crews are the key players in a mission such as this; my job is to ensure they have what they need to get the aircraft ready and to complete the mission.”

The 305th MXG members increased manning by 50 percent on three consecutive 12-hour shifts. The unit’s increased manpower enabled the preparation, launching and recovering of the aircraft from start to finish.

Mission commander, Lt. Col. Erik Simonsen, said, “The mission was a huge success and we achieved all the objectives we set out to accomplish. We didn’t do everything perfectly, but really, for doing such a large exercise the first time in such a long time, I think we achieved a lot.”

Simonsen, who is also the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron commander, added, “Overall, I think we did really well. Everybody pulled together and it was a fantastic exercise of twelve aircraft showcasing AMC’s global mission of global reach and global power.”

‘Elephant Walk’ is a unique Air Force term introduced during World War II, eventually becoming a part of the Air Force’s institutional language. The Army Air Corps’ large fleet of bombers would regularly conduct attacks by sorties comprising more than 1,000 aircraft. Observers commented that the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements of the heavily-laden bombers paralleled the nose-to-tail trail of lumbering elephants on their way to the next watering hole. The term stuck – and was even used to define maximum aircraft surge operations in Air Force regulations.

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