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MacDill aircrew flies AF artists on a refueling mission

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Thacker
379th AEW public affairs

A forward-deployed MacDill KC-135 Stratotanker aircrew refueled fighters and another tanker in the southwest Asian sky. This mission is just one of many combat missions that takes place daily in the area of responsibility, but this one was different.

On this particular flight, four artists from the Air Force Art Program photographed F-16s, F-15Es and a KC-10 being refueled. The artists went along for the ride to document combat air refueling over the skies of Iraq.

The USAF Art Program allows civilian artists to accompany servicemembers on various missions. The artists capture aircraft and servicemembers at work.

Most of the artwork produced from officially sponsored trips are donated as gifts to the Air Force.

"Seeing and recognizing examples of these artists past work made it really special to think that they might use our flight to capture part of the Air Forces' involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom," Maj. Ken Ernewein, KC 135 pilot.

Both artists and crew felt privileged to fly on this mission.

"I've felt that we are living through a momentous time in our history for the last couple years and helping these artists get a view of our daily operations over Iraq was a privilege," said Major Ernewein. "If they use any of what they captured on our mission it would be an honor to have been part of it."

"It's a privilege to be invited on missions," said Michael Kane, AF artist. " Doing the painting gives me a chance to give something back to the servicemembers who fight for my freedom on a daily basis."

Besides this, the artists have been in the AOR for nearly three weeks; traveling from base-to-base documenting the support of aircraft and aircrew in ongoing operations.

"It's going to take a while to sink in," said Kane, " for me to realize I was in an KC-135 watching a refueling mission over Iraq."




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