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Gateway To Afghanistan

FRIDAY, OCT. 15, 2010, 2:18 P.M.

Welcome to Manas

On the flight line at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, Dustin Harder, a jet engine mechanic with the 141st Washington Air National Guard Air Refueling Wing, cleans the fuel filters on a engine of a KC-135R Stratotanker. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
On the flight line at the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, Dustin Harder, a jet engine mechanic with the 141st Washington Air National Guard Air Refueling Wing, cleans the fuel filters on a engine of a KC-135R Stratotanker. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The Manas Transit Center's latest tanker landed Friday at the Kyrgyzstan base, unloading two pallets of coats, blankets and other humanitarian supplies collected from across the Inland Northwest.

The supplies will be distributed in villages and schools within the impoverished Central Asian nation by Air Force personnel deployed at Manas, many of whom volunteer their time to help with distribution and outreach efforts, said Major Elliot Safdie, who oversees humanitarian and other assistance programs for the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing.

On the tarmac was Senior Airman Dustin Harder, a mechanic with the Fairchild-based 141st National Guard Air Refueling Wing who is about half way through his first deployment to Manas. Harder, of Cheney, has been working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, inspecting and maintaining KC-135R engines.

"It aint too bad as long as you keep busy," Harder said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, the Fairchild-based KC-135R joins about a dozen aerial tankers on the flightline at Manas and four C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets. The base serves as a supply hub for Afghanistan.

Tankers flying out of Manas deliver, on average, 750,000 pounds of fuel daily to combat jets and other aircraft operating over Afghanistan, said Major John Elolf.




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David Wasson oversees coverage of politics and state and local government and assists with editing on the City Desk.

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