N.K.A.W.T.G. – The Gucci Boys of Travis – Part 2

You’re a 21st Airlift Squadron C-17 coming home from an overseas tactical mission, bringing back essential supplies and wounded victims from Afghanistan. Your callsign is COVERT 33. It’s pitch black outside, and you are running low on fuel, AND thousands of miles from the nearest land. There is only one option: Aerial Refueling. Off in the distance ahead of you, you see an angel in the darkness…the beautiful red and green formation lights of XTNDER 14, a 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 from Travis AFB. A flying gas station just when you need fuel and your only link between flying or crashing into the dark ocean.


While the story is fictional, the callsigns are real and a few weeks ago, I was on board the KC-10 while they practiced refueling a 21st AS C-17 along the California coast.  The KC-10 Extender is a vital player in helping accomplish the 60th AMW’s essential mission of providing rapid, reliable airlift of American fighting forces anywhere on earth in support of national objectives and to extend the reach of American and allied air power through mid-air refueling. 


As we departed our previous aerial refueling track, we entered the 6 North/South track that runs up and down the coast of California. Arguably one of the most scenic tracks to conduct A/R on. After we completed the first part of our mission, XTNDER 14 was just a few minutes away from rendezvousing with COVERT 33, our receiver for the next couple of hours. Thanks to the precise mission planning and coordination between all of the aircraft, we hit our mark on time and the -17 was right there.


The 21st Airlift Squadron transitioned to the C-17 Globemaster III airframe back in 2006 and has since flown in operations across the globe, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The “Bee Liners” are the newest airframe at Travis AFB, and offer another versatile weapon to the arsenal already present at the 60th AMW: the C-5 Galaxy of the 22nd AS, and the KC-10 of the 6th & 9th ARS.


At the tip of this weapon, is MSgt Rob Tabor, Chief Boom of the 60th AMW’s Formal Training Unit. “Boomer,” as he is affectionately known as, operates the KC-10’s refueling boom and is the vial link ensuring the receiver aircraft gets fuel and keeps both aircraft operating within the razor thing margins of safety.


During our couple of hours with COVERT 33, both Boomer’s and various pilots from the 21st AS C-17 made numerous contacts to hone the fine skills needed to conduct the ballet that is aerial refueling, transferring a total of 100,000 lbs of fuel over 600 miles on refueling track 6 North/South.


After COVERT 33 disconnected and departed off on a low level mission, we took advantage of the beautiful scenery of the Bay Area. Our Air Crew coordinated with NorCal ATC for us to conduct what’s know in the area as a “Bay Tour.” As we headed back north, our crews made a smooth right turn, headed into the Bay and did a couple of laps over San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Marin headlands before heading back to Travis.


The city by the bay is indeed one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and thanks to the Gucci Boys and the 60th AMW/PA, I got to see if from a whole new perspective…


A special thanks to Capt Gill Torres and his Air Crew, as well as the amazing Public Affairs staff at 60th AMW: Maj Vanessa Hillman, 2dLt Holly Hess, and TSgt Donald Osborn. Without their help, none of these shots would have been possible.


8 Replies to “N.K.A.W.T.G. – The Gucci Boys of Travis – Part 2”

  1. Sagar, I really enjoyed your narrative and pictures with the Gucci Boys from Travis. You sure do awesome photo journalistic work. Keep it up.


  2. Correction in History.

    Nobody kicks ass without tanker gas, nobody.- Attributed to the special operations KC-135 tanker crews of Plattsburgh and Grissom AFBs in the mid 1980’s.

    What I am about to tell you comes from first hand knowledge from someone who was there and one of a few men who developed the tanker crew motto (I have the original logo and motto) you know today.

    This comes from the history of the greatest tanker wing the world has ever known or will ever know. Grissom, AFB, IN during the years of 1981 – 1986.

    I have to correct the history books and will soon officially correct it when I give the 8th Airforce museum down near Savannah, GA. my t-shirt with the historical launch phase and original logo.

    The old unofficial history (as found on the internet) is close, but actually maintenance personnel from the 305th FMS (Electric Shop), OMS and AMS (Instrument Shop) Squadron, Detachment 1, Howard, AFB Panama founded the motto you know today. Special operations KC-135 is correct. Time frame was 1983 – 1984. The motto actually goes, “Without Tanker Gas Nobody Kicks Ass”. The logo shows an animated Grissom KC135 refueling an animated AC-130 Gunship. I guess people modified it after we departed. I still have my original T-shirt with this saying to prove we were the first (motto and logo). A bunch of us had t-shirts made up in Panama (1983-1984).

    During my years at Grissom, we never missed a special operations mission because of Tanker Maintenance. Our group was the most efficient, devoted tanker group to ever come out of Grissom or the AF (lookup 305th air wing history). Our Tanker crews and maintenance personnel were sought out Air Force wide to support missions worldwide like no other base.

    I never realized how popular this motto had become. It makes me proud that I had a small part in history. Maybe I will publish the original. lol

    Just thought you would like to know,

    Dominic V. Leuci Jr.
    1982 – 1986
    SGT Leuci, 305th Aircraft Electrical System Shop, DET 1

    305th Air-Refueling Wing, Grissiom, AFB, IN
    305th DET 1, Howard AFB, Panama

    PS: The Boom was my System and I flew with Tanker Crews many times in the special operation missions after Grenada.

  3. D Leuci you are correct. If I am not mistaken the T-shirt and motto was created by a KC-135 crew chief.

    Little inside: The tankers from Plattsburgh and Grissom were involved in the first low level air refueling in support of the Iranian Rescue Mission. We were very experienced crews drawn from both units. Crews were primarily stan eval or S(select) crews. We trained in the S.W. at night with Night Vission Goggles (NVG’s) we were assigned to a special operations unit in Washington DC. Training the C-130 guys out of Hurlbert and Mississippi (AC, MC and EC 130’s)was a challenge. 130’s were not air refueling capable until around 1980. They are not pressurized. Tankers then had J-57 engines (water injection). Tranied alot in Florida out over the Gulf. Had alot of fun driving around at night with our NVG’s. Some might remember “tobagon”, flaps 20 and a boom you had to hold up because our airspeed was around 180 knots for A/R in a desent. Not traditional join-up. fly over the top of 130 upper nav beacon was only light on, one shot contact, desend and get the gas off before getting to the bottom. no tanker lighting until over the top and radio silent! My first 130 was at night, no lights and radio silent! No qulifications required. All I could see was the receptacle light and contact. Couldn,t see the 130 at all (tried NVG’s depth persection problem)moon light could see props. Cool refueling!

    Those Grissom and Plattsburgh crews ended up in Eygpt flying the Carter failed rescue mission.

    Still intact and trained. New mission was flying out of Panama in support of the El Savador operations and the Panama upcoming Just Cause 1989. Night missions. Many times chased by media. Navy in the Gulf monitoring. The 130 and 135 maitenance crews where housed together and the flight crews were in base housing.

    Lost one tanker. (305th ARW/70th crew)

    Grissom was predominate tanker operations in Panama. DET 1

    Bill King, MSgt. Retired Instructor Boom — 380th ARS Plattsburgh (77-82)/305 ARS Grissom (84-88)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *