USAF Tanker Competition: “Get on with it”


George Talbot, political editor of the Mobile Press-Register has written a powerful column about the desire of the mother of a fallen hero in the wars in South West Asia to see the new tanker provided to the troops.

“Get on with it,” says Connie Gibson . “Whatever it takes.”

She’s talking about the U.S. Air Force tanker contest. She’s lost her patience with the endless delays. The Air Force’s decade-long quest to replace its old tankers has been stymied by lawyers, lobbyists and weak-willed bureaucrats. The political drama continues. And with each passing day, the country sends more young men and women into combat in decrepit airplanes.

“It’s shameful,” Gibson says. “They’re risking their lives for us. They deserve better.”

Gibson, of small-town Repton, has a unique perspective. One that, if we’re lucky, none of us will ever share. She lost her son to the war.

Talbot then quotes the mother with regard to the fear of her son – brave enough to sacrifice his life by jumping on a bomb – to ride on the antiquated air force tankers.

Gibson said her son made numerous trips on KC-135s. She said he often joked that he was more afraid of the rickety planes than he was of combat.

But Gibson never laughed. The stress of deployment, she said, is hard enough without putting soldiers on a harrowing flight over the ocean. The KC-135s are leaky and uninsulated, swinging from frigid cold to stifling hot on a given flight. They’re windowless, noisy and prone to corrosion. It is, according to former Air Force officials, just a matter of time before one falls from the sky.


***Posted November 22nd, 2009