BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CBS) – Members of an Illinois Air National Guard unit have been deployed to Libya to refuel aircraft enforcing no-fly zone as part of the international military effort against dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Aircraft and crews from the 126th Air Refueling Wing, based in downstate Belleville, deployed to an unspecified location late Tuesday night as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. They will refuel aircraft enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya.
“In the Air National Guard we mirror our active duty components,” said Col. Peter Nezamis, commander of the 126th Air Refueling Wing. “So we are ready to go. We have to be deployed and in theater and ready to fly the missions within 72 hours of notification.”
The unit flies the KC-135R Stratotanker, a fuel tanker that can refuel aircraft in mid-air. The Stratotanker is a military version of the Boeing 707 and can offload about 200,000 pounds of fuel to other aircraft while flying speeds of more than 500 miles per hour.
“We control the boom from the back of the plane,” said Tech Sgt. Mark Buzenski of Sugar Grove, a member of the 126th who operates the refueling boom. “We manipulate it and the fighters or bombers position themselves real steady. We will make contact and offload the fuel they need to accomplish their mission.”
Nezamis said the unit works hard to prepare for missions like this.
“The 126th Air Refueling Wing always stands ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” said Nezamis. “We have very highly trained and highly motivated Airmen. I’m proud of their passion, professionalism and willingness to help our country and state.”
Operation Odyssey Dawn launched over the weekend in an international effort to prevent further attacks against Libyan civilians.