Meridian, Miss. Meridian's 186th Air Refueling Wing Tuesday carried out its first mission since the KC-135 Stratotankers returned to Key Field.
The KC-135s started returning to Meridian last month, after a couple of years' absence.
Between 1992 and 2011, the 186th performed more than 21,000 air-to-air refueling missions around the world.
The wing's commander says crew members have already started training to again perform essential air-to-air refueling duties that are core to its mission.
"It's job security, I think. It's an enduring mission," said Col. Franklin Chalk. "Air refueling is going to be around for many, many years.They are old airplanes. Hopefully, they'll be with us for at least fifteen to twenty more years."
The 2-hour training took the crew from Alexandria, La., to Mobile, Ala. Unit members will train four to six days each week.
"They've all got to get re-qualified," said Chalk. "Now, we do have some who have never flown these airplanes before, so they'll have to be trained in the mission."
The KC-135 stratotanker is a unique aircraft, often nicknamed 'The Iron Maiden' for its endurance and reliability. Chalk says it's the perfect fit for the long-term success of the 186th:
"Air refueling is key to the success of any missions anywhere," Chalk said. "If you don't have gas, you can't fly airplanes."
The KC-135 can fly at near sonic speeds and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.
Chalk says the planes are coming to Meridian from Ohio and Tennessee, among other places. There are currently three aircraft on the ramp, but Key Field will have eight by the end of the month.