MacDill supports the war on drugs: A 91st Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 crew deploys to Ecuador
by 1st Lt. Erin Dorrance
Desert BDUs, loaded M-16 rifles and a book titled “How to Survive Sand Storms” are what Airmen typically have with them when deploying these days to the Central Command area of responsibility. Some MacDill members packed quite differently for their deployment to South America.
Eighteen Airmen and one KC-135 Stratotanker from MacDill deployed to Manta, Ecuador, May 30 for the first MacDill aerial refueling deployment rotation. The deployment included nine aircrew members from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, three crew chiefs, three specialists and one superintendent from the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The MacDill group was providing aerial refueling to Airborne Warning and Control Systems conducting counter drug reconnaissance in South America.
"It felt great to have a direct hand in the war on drugs," said 1st Lt. Joe Corpening, 91st ARS pilot, a Las Cruces, New Mexico, native who has been assigned to the 91st ARS since January.
The MacDill members, as well as other U.S. military members, lived on the Eloy Alfaro Air Base, which shares a runway with the city's airport. Although MacDill members were living on base in close quarters with each other, they did take advantage of learning about the local culture, said Lieutenant Corpening.
"I took a few Spanish classes on base which were offered for free once a day," said Lieutenant Corpening.
"The locals were really nice to us and it seemed as though everyone appreciated us [Americans]," said 1st Lt. Ryan Ferdinandsen, 91st ARS pilot, a Tampa native on his first deployment.
"We took advantage of the MWR trips offered by the base and got to go to some great places," said Lieutenant Ferdinandsen.
Lieutenant Corpening said his favorite trip was a whale watch they took off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. He said they were so close to the whales that they could hear the large mammals.
Lieutenant Ferdinandsen said the trip to the rain forest was a memorable day for him.
"We ate fresh sugar cane and guava," he said. "We also had an amazing guide who used a monkey caller to attract the monkeys for us to view them. It was a great day!"
The 91st ARS swapped out flying crews July 2, although the 6th AMXS Airmen remained in Manta for another month as they follow a two-month deployment schedule to the location.
A MacDill KC-135 deployed rotation will continue in Manta for the rest of 2005.