Guard Unit Stays Ready

By: Tyler Helms
By: Tyler Helms

Air-to-air refueling is an amazing feat and it's one the Meridian based 186th Air Refueling Wing takes very seriously.

"You train for that actual event overseas or at home," said trainee Brad Anthony. "Even though we're training, it always is a regular mission to us."

Allowing planes refuel in the air means they can fly longer, this unit was key in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"In the past and in the present sometimes, you would use your Navy as your main source. Drive the boat to the shore and unload. But this brings the Air Force to the fight, as well," said instructor pilot, Maj. Marcus Lambert. "You fight for a long time, thousands of miles away from home, just like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Normally air-to-air refueling is only used during the main stages of war. But that doesn't mean this unit is relaxing.

The National Guard could be activated today and be gone Thursday. This unit is known for smooth flying in the air, but the controversy surrounding the 186th Air Refueling Wing has made things here on the ground a little more turbulent.

"The controversy over the past couple of years has been a little distracting," said Col. Erik Hearon, the unit's commander.

Some in the unit have been under investigation for misuse of funds, corruption, records falsification and racism, charges that have taken their toll.

"The morale has gone down in the unit, but we pick up and just keep going," Lambert said.

"Everybody is concentrating on doing their job. Were trying to look forward, be sure we are getting the appropriate missions for the wing, to ensure the continued success of the wing in a real good professional way, while still cleaning up those issues from the past couple of years," Hearon said.

The investigation into those issues was supposed to be complete by the end of the summer, but Col. Hearon says it will be at least 30 to 60 more days.

"It's up to the leadership to set the tone and procedures," said Hearon. "Most of the people down here right now had nothing to do with has gone on in the past couple of years, and they are doing their job real well."

A job that, whether in the skies of Iraq or in Meridian has made history in different ways.


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