Several local residents of the Prescott area were invited to a once-in-a-lifetime experience on Thursday. They took part in a fighter jet refueling flight on a KC-135 Stratotanker out of the Goldwater Air National Guard Base. The group included Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Chancellor Dr. Anette Karlsson, Yavapai College’s Program Specialist for Economic Development Katherine Anderson, businessman and realtor Chris Kuknyo, and Prescott Fire Department Engineer Conrad Jackson. The flight was sponsored by the Arizona Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (AZESGR).
Twice a year, the AZESGR invites individuals to partake in a refueling flight. Some twenty-five participants attended an orientation briefing conducted by the Commander of the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Colonel Patrick Donaldson and safety briefing conducted by Boom Operator Trenton Stokes prior to boarding the KC-135. The two-hour flight Thursday provided the opportunity to refuel eight F-35 Lightning II fighter jets that were drilling in southern Arizona and were being supported by the 161st Air Refueling Wing. Guests on the flight had the opportunity to interview the two National Guard pilots as well as lay next to Phoenix Air Guard Boom Operators as they refueled the jets. All of the air crew members on the flight were Traditional Guardsmen who have civilian jobs in the local community.
Prescott residents Patrick Kuykendall and Larry Jacobs, both local members of the AZESGR, helped facilitate the event. The AZESGR is a Department of Defense office operated by 63 volunteers and two full-time staff. The group works and maintains employer support for the Guard and Reserve by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of Uniformed Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and connects military service members and veterans with employment resources.
The goal of providing the flights is an effort to educate the attendees on the professionalism, skill, and selfless service inherent among the airmen. The hope is that the exposure will promote a culture in which all American employers will support and value the military service of their employees who also serve in the National Guard and Reserve. The City of Prescott currently has two employees deployed with the Guard. Anyone interested in more information about AZESGR should reach out to them through their website at www. esgr.mil or contact their support specialist Valerie Speltz at 602-629-4031 or Mr. Scott Essex at (602) 267-2404.