After more than 10 hours flying across the Atlantic Ocean, four KC-135 tankers from Fairchild Air Force Base arrived in Germany on Wednesday to support NATO operations in eastern Europe as the Russia-Ukraine War nears the end of its second week.
The tankers, along with approximately 150 personnel from the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base on Wednesday .
“This deployment proves we can provide rapid global mobility, reach, and power,” Colonel Cassius Bentley, commander of the 92nd, said in a written statement.
Spangdahlem, located approximately 115 miles west of Frankfurt near the Belgian border, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 52nd Fighter Wing.
The tankers will provide refueling support to NATO forces along Europe’s eastern flank, as NATO has increased its security posture across the region in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine .
Also supporting NATO operations in eastern Europe are another group of Washingtonians: National Guardsmen from Washington’s 2nd Battalion 146th Field Artillery and 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion, which deployed on a scheduled mission to Europe in January.
Those Guardsmen, along with a battalion of California guardsmen, are participating in a nine-month mission to enhance the “forward presence in eastern Europe, with four multinational battalion-size battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland,” Joseph Siemandel with the Washington National Guard wrote in January as the Guardsmen traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas for training for their NATO mission.
Thousands of U.S. troops have been deployed in recent days to Europe, including the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia and 5,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Numerous combat and support aircraft also have been deployed in eastern Europe, along with two Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries deployed to Poland Wednesday.
Following the Russian invasion, the NATO alliance took steps to shore up its defenses across Europe in a defensive posture.
The 92nd Air Refueling Wing deployment was first announced by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Monday; originally the tankers were to be based at an air base on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, but their orders were shifted to Spangdahlem on Tuesday.