JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s KC-135R Final Salute.
We knew this day would finally come but that did not make it any easier to fathom the significance and history of the event taking place this bright, sunny morning in late September at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. On Sept. 20, 2023, the New Jersey National Guard’s 108th Wing, 141st Air Refueling Squadron said farewell to a true workhorse in the jet age.
KC-135R, serial number 60-0366, McGuire’s last Boeing Stratotanker, departed the fields runway for the final time in front of a long line of retired and active wing personnel, their guests and family members, to render a final salute and wave, for a job done with excellence.
The distinctive tiger tail markings and “New Jersey” fin flash were bound for Maine to resume duties with 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor. Unfortunately, the markings will be removed and it will wear 101st ARW paint shortly.
Airframe 60-0366 started its flying service as a KC-135A. It was delivered to the Air Force on August 3, 1961 and was reengined on May 8, 1989. It was the first KC-135R to arrive at the 108th Wing in October of 2007, and it was the last to depart. For its departure the aircraft was given the callsign Hobey 11 in honor of Captain Hobey Baker.
Hobey was a prominent Princeton University collegiate athlete in both football and ice hockey, class of 1914. Shortly after his graduation he joined the civilian aviation corps. In 1917 he left the United States for Europe to participate in World War I. Captain Hobey commanded the 141st Aero Squadron in France, shooting down its first enemy aircraft. Shortly after the war Captain Hobey Baker tragically died in a flying accident of his SPAD XIII. In his honor the Princeton University Tiger was adopted and incorporated as the 141st’s squadron insignia on their SPAD XIII aircraft.
Those very same Princeton Tiger markings were prominently displayed on KC-135s of the 141st ARS, while they served at Joint Base McGuire.
As a result of the final KC-135R withdrawal from the 108th Wing at Joint Base McGuire there will be restructuring of the squadrons and airframe assets reporting into the 108th Wing. Firstly, is the fact that with this departure of the KC-135, along with the retirement of the last KC-10 Extender back in June of this year, it now leaves McGuire operating a single type airframe Air Force Tanker, the new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus.
Currently JB McGuire has eighteen KC-46 tankers on base. The 141st Air Refueling Squadron which reports into the 108th Wing will not own the KC-46 aircraft. The aircraft are owned by the 305th Air Mobility Wing at JB McGuire. Instead, the 141st ARS will operate as a classic associate unit. In addition, the 108th Wing will stand up a new refueling squadron, that being the 170th Air Refueling Squadron. The 170th ARS was created with reference and recognition to the former 170th Air Refueling Group which was transferred to McGuire Air Force Base in July 1965 and was consolidated in 1993 into the 108th Air Refueling Wing.
The good news with all of the reshuffling of airframes and squadrons is that the most important asset, the people, look to be accounted for. Some 90% of the KC-135 pilots are transitioning to the KC-46. The first crew training for the KC-46 began in March of this year and the training continues to date. In addition, the 514th Air Mobility Wing (Reserve) is providing aircrew to enable the stand-up of the new 170th Air Refueling Squadron. In conversation with aircrew at the “Final Salute” ceremony, the overall consensus is that they really like the KC-46 and that it brings many new capabilities that the 135 did not have.
The KC-135’s from the 108th Wing at McGuire have served for 32 years. During that time their record of accomplishments while conducting military operations is extraordinary. The list of missions includes Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the Gulf War, Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, more than 2300 hours supporting Operation Noble Eagle, securing the US homeland after the attacks on Sept. 11th, and more than 4600 hours in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, (fighting terrorism across the globe). In addition, the KC-135 has provided humanitarian airlift support for people in need during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
Since 2014 the 108th Wing along with their Boeing KC-135’s have flown 7171 sorties, achieved more than 30,500 flying hours and have off-loaded 38 billion pounds of fuel. The “Final Salute” ceremony conducted in late September at Joint Base McGuire sincerely was celebrating the beginning and ending of a legacy.
Farewell Hobey 11!