Skip to comments.KC-10 pilot recalls 9/11, decision to join Air Force
Posted on 01/27/2010 3:45:45 PM PST by SandRat
1/27/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- On Sept. 11, 2001, the world changed for most Americans and among the hardest hit were Capt. Hillary Wykes.
Captain Wykes, a KC-10 Extender pilot with the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at an air base in Southwest Asia, was a flight attendant for United Airlines before entering the Air Force.
"I was working for United on Sept. 11 when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and crashed in the field in Pennsylvania," said Captain Wykes, who is deployed from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "The people on those planes were my co-workers. My whole world changed."
Not long after Sept. 11, Captain Wykes said she was laid off from her flight attendant position. From there, she said she never figured on getting to where she is today.
"After I got laid-off, I hadn't planned on entering the military... it just sort of happened," said Captain Wykes, a six-year Air Force veteran whose hometown is Plano, Ill. "But here I am, and every day when I'm getting on the bus to go fly, I walk by the 9/11 memorial that is here on base. Every time I see that memorial, I am reminded of how I got here, how my life has changed and how the country changed. I'm proud to serve my country. I am proud to protect it."
Since her life changed and after she joined the Air Force six years ago, the captain has surpassed another point in her life that she is very proud of.
"On Nov. 1, 2009, I flew my 100th combat sortie," Captain Wykes said. "It used to be, during the Vietnam-era, once a pilot had a 100 combat sorties they got to go home. And while this doesn't hold true today, it is still an important milestone in my flying career."
The 1998 graduate of Plano High School and 2004 graduate of Southern Illinois University said her job as a KC-10 pilot and those of her fellow KC-10 crewmembers have a critical role in deployed operations.
"As a KC-10 pilot, we fly combat missions in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom," Captain Wykes said. "We refuel a variety of fighter, bomber, reconnaissance and tanker aircraft that support war efforts on the ground, including aircraft in support of troops in contact and strike assists. As a tanker aircraft, we support U.S. and coalition aircraft."
Captain Wykes said the important thing to remember about tanker aircraft and their capabilities is their ability to bring "fuel to the fight."
"Without tanker aircraft," she said, "the U.S. and coalition forces would not be able to provided the air support that is currently in place. We enable aircraft to remain in the air for extended periods of time, providing much needed coverage for ground forces in places like Afghanistan and Iraq."
Even though she said her world changed on Sept. 11, she said she also realizes she is doing something now to affect change for future Americans by serving in the military and the Air Force.
"I am incredibly proud to be able to serve in our nation's Air Force," Captain Wykes said. "This is my fourth deployment to the Middle East, and each time I am out here, I am reminded of how good we have it as American citizens.
"The freedom we have in the U.S. is amazing, and I am honored to contribute to the protection of that freedom," the captain said. "Sometimes deployments can get very monotonous, and it is easy to forget the big picture, or 'why we're here.' But when we are flying over combat zones, refueling aircraft that will support troops in contact on the ground, I am reminded of how real the fighting is... and how I am able to help."
Capt. Hillary Wykes, a KC-10 Extender pilot with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing's 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron
at an air base in Southwest Asia, stands by the base's 9/11 memorial. Captain Wykes is deployed from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron
at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and her hometown is Plano, Ill.
(U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)
Thanks you, Captain.
KC-10’s are in critical need of replacement. i was hoping they would mention that.
Like my buddy says who flys a KC135..you cant kick ass without tanker gas.
Keep them flying, Capt....
>>KC-10s are in critical need of replacement. i was hoping they would mention that.<<
DC-10 is very much an older airframe. I have great respect for the folk who maintain and fly these and the KC-135 (B707) aircraft (those are the only ones that I know of in the larger milcraft range that are from commercial jets).
I do hope they replace them and get this warrior into something a bit more modern.
re: you cant kick ass without tanker gas
One of the crews I came across had “passing gas” on their patch.
While they are related, very closely, they are not the same airframe. The KC is skinnier and IIRC, shorter. The AWACS (E-3), the JSTARS (E-8) and the Hermes/TACAMO (E-6) do use the 707 airframe. Some countries, Israel for example, have tankers based on the 707 airframe, often conversions from old airliners. But the USAF KC-135, all the EC-135s and RC-135s (and at one time a few plain C-135s) are a distinct aircraft from the 707. The 707 first flew a few weeks before the contract for design of the -135 was let.
Thanks for the detailed info. I guess it would be more accurate to say the KC 135 is from the same airframe as the 707.
But, I assume the vintage is the same? It sounds like you would know better than I.
By “from the same airframe” I mean it to be BASED on that airframe.
Go Tankers! We need ya!
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