Kansas Coyotes refuel Spangdahlem fighters

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot from the 52nd Fighter Wing closes in on a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The F-16 flies within 30 feet of the KC-135 during the refueling process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot from the 52nd Fighter Wing closes in on a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker to receive fuel during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The F-16 flies within 30 feet of the KC-135 during the refueling process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron in Topeka, Kan., gets prepared by Airmen for an aerial refueling mission with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The KC-135 replaced the U.S. Air Force KC-97 Stratotanker in 1957 and represents the U.S. Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron in Topeka, Kan., gets prepared by Airmen for an aerial refueling mission with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The KC-135 replaced the U.S. Air Force KC-97 Stratotanker in 1957 and represents the U.S. Air Force's first jet-powered refueling tanker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

Airmen gather in a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker before the start of a refueling aerial mission with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The KC-135 assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., enables in-flight refueling for U.S. Air Force aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

Airmen gather in a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker before the start of a refueling aerial mission with U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The KC-135 assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., enables in-flight refueling for U.S. Air Force aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., operates the boom of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Sept. 18, 2014.Tressler hails from Yates Center, Kan., and has been to 29 countries in his career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., operates the boom of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Sept. 18, 2014.Tressler hails from Yates Center, Kan., and has been to 29 countries in his career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Francisco J. Bautista, a 480th Air Maintenance Squadron electrician, watches as U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron, operates the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft during a refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. Bautista, along with other Airmen from Spangdahlem, went on the flight to see first-hand how a refueling mission operates in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Francisco J. Bautista, a 480th Air Maintenance Squadron electrician, watches as U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron, operates the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker to refuel a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft during a refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. Bautista, along with other Airmen from Spangdahlem, went on the flight to see first-hand how a refueling mission operates in the air. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing fly in formation beside the wing of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept 18, 2014. Six pilots from the 52nd FW participated in the refueling mission.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing fly in formation beside the wing of a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept 18, 2014. Six pilots from the 52nd FW participated in the refueling mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

The boom from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., maintains the KC-135. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

The boom from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft during an aerial refueling mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Sept. 18, 2014. The 117th Air Refueling Squadron based out of Topeka, Kan., maintains the KC-135. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke J. Kitterman/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- At more than 28,000 feet above ground, a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker and its crew assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron in Topeka, Kansas, executed an aerial refueling mission with 52nd Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft Sept. 18 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

Aerial refueling is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight to allow aircraft to be airborne longer, extending its range and mission capabilities.

"The F-16 usually has a mission time of about an hour to an hour and a half," said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Andrew J. Taylor, a 52nd FW F-16 pilot. "Being able to use the tankers and refuel in the air is awesome for us. It allows us to do longer missions. We can set up a scenario, go fight and then go get fuel in the air to go back and fight again."

During the refueling process, the aircraft receiving the fuel is within about 30 feet of the tanker. The fuel is transferred through the flying boom, a telescoping tube with movable flight control surfaces that an operator on the tanker aircraft extends and inserts into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft.

For one Airman, operating the flying boom is as rewarding as it gets.

"Getting to do this for a living is amazing," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ben Tressler, an in-flight refueling specialist from the 117th Air Refueling Squadron. "I joined the Air Force to travel and I've been to 29 different countries because of this job. To me, there's not a better gig in the world."

Since the KC-135 was from the Kansas Air National Guard and was taking off from Spangdahlem runway for their training, it gave a small group of Spangdahlem Airmen the opportunity to fly with the crew and observe in-air refueling operations.

"Most of the time it's routine training," Taylor said. "This time it's a little more exciting because it allowed some of our maintenance Airmen, the people who take care of our jets, to get a front row seat to what we do up there. It shows them how their work on the ground enables us to do our work in the air."

For many Airmen on board, it was their first time seeing the refueling process. 

"Seeing the boom hook up with the F-16s was awesome," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Francisco J. Bautista, a 480th Air Maintenance Squadron electrician. "We work with the F-16s every day and to get to see them in action from the tanker was a great experience."