914th Completes first KC-135 sortie as mission transition continues

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – The 914th Airlift Wing has marked a major milestone in its ongoing transition to an Air Refueling Wing, completing its first flight out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station with a new KC-135 stratotanker as it works to become mission ready in its new role.

The KC-135s will be used to refuel real world combat missions in air every day, and the 914th is set to receive eight of the jets by September.

The first KC-135 arrived in February marking the beginning of the mission transition. Last week, the second one to arrive here was part of the first flight out of Niagara Falls for the tanker unit.

“That’s why the wing commander was on board to kind of celebrate everything,” explained Capt. Catherine Nelson, a flight instructor with the 452nd Air Mobility Wing out of the March Air Reserve Base.

Members from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing led the flight that marked the first sortie for the KC-135 here, and leaders of Niagara Falls’ 328th Airlift Squadron, which is taking on the mission transition now, say having the face-to-face interaction with the experienced airmen from the other base was invaluable. “They have the corporate knowledge in this area that we need. We don’t have the corporate knowledge in this area,” said Maj. Justin Fadem, interim director of operations for the 328th Airlift Squadron.

“We can completely see the direction that we should be going in,” he added.

The new direction for the 914th ensures a future for the local Air Reserve Station, where it is the host unit.

A few years ago, as the C-130 Hercules cargo mission was ending for the 914th, there were very real fears the base would close. “We were at risk of losing over 3,000 jobs. The economic development hit for this area could be $140 million,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul as the base welcomed the first KC-135 jet for its new mission in February.

Now, the future is bright for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and the units that call it home.

In March, the Air National Guard’s 107th, the largest tenant organization on NFARS, was redesignated from an Airlift Wing to an Attack Wing.

The 914th should officially be redesignated as an Air Refueling Wing in June.

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