19th ARG wins eighth consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th ABW/PA
The 19th Air Refueling Group was recently awarded its eighth consecutive Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

The Black Knights, who are part of Air Mobility Command, earned the honor for their service from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006.

"This is definitely a group-wide recognition. It's a validation of all the great service, hard work and dedication of all the members of the Black Knights," said Col. Chris Bence, commander of the 19th ARG.

The group has two vital capabilities: KC-135 air refueling and airlift coupled with C-5 isochronal inspections and field-level maintenance in partnership with the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.

Along with earning the outstanding unit award the group set a record for flight hours completed without a mishap for the third consecutive year. The group flew 214 percent of its programmed flying hours totaling 9,883 hours, setting this years record with a fleet of just 12 KC-135s.

During the award period, the 19th ARG refueled the majority of airframes in the U.S. Air Force inventory and a host of U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and coalition aircraft. The group flew more than 1,776 mishap-free sorties, during which they off-loaded more than 59 million pounds of fuel. The group also delivered 29.7 tons of cargo and multiple aircraft to areas of responsibility.

One of the biggest things about earning the outstanding unit award this year was that the unit not only maintained three deployed locations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, it also maintained the home front by earning an outstanding or excellent for all of the four major inspections that occurred in the spring of 2006, said Lt. Col. Marc Van Wert, deputy commander of the 19th ARG.

However, the maintenance mission is also a valuable asset to the group.The 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron delivered 18 C-5s to the field saving more than 85,000 man-hours.

Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Hamilton, group superintendent of the 19th ARG, said one of the things that set the unit apart is the relationship between the aircraft maintainers and the operators.

"I know over the 22 years I have been in the Air Force I have never seen maintenance and ops get along better," Chief Hamilton said.

Lt. Col. Blaine Holt, deputy commander of the 19th ARG said while the men and women of the black knights meet and exceed the expectations on duty members are always willing to give back to the local community, which makes the accomplishment of being named an outstanding unit even more impressive.

"Our people are still taking the time to invest in the local community even with the accelerated ops tempo," Colonel Holt said.

Colonel Bence said, he felt the award showed the black knights were not going to rest on their laurels as they approach the closure of the unit in 2008. The 19th ARG has a long and proud heritage and that the unit continues to build upon, he added.

"The 19th ARG is aware we still have a mission and an obligation of service. We will execute our service and our mission until the very end," Colonel Bence said. "We will perform in true black knight fashion."