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Airman Brings In-Your-Face Refueling to OEF

TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan -- Looking out the window of his boom pod at 30,000 feet, in the middle of nowhere, with himself and the open air -- that is what Master Sgt. Eric Faurott calls peaceful.

Faurott is deployed from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and is currently a 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron boom operator who provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and coalition aircraft.

He has been a boom operator since 1996 and has always enjoyed the scenery of his job. But, the most important aspect is what he calls "in-your-face refueling."

"As a flying line boom, it is one contact and one offload," Faurott said. "It has to be simple and fast in the combat support role. What people don't realize is the tanker's weapon is fuel. What we bring to our fight is our fuel."

In regard to combat capability, tankers are indispensable, he added.

"The fighters can't do their mission without the tankers," the boom operator said. "It is the middle of ocean, middle of the night, and it depends on us (whether they) make it home or (to) the next tanker. We help them get to the next location. Without the tanker, more people would be in harm's way. It keeps people safe at a distance for the last 50 years."

While the deployment has been a busy one, Faurott and his crew have flown 43 sorties in 60 days and logged 300 flying hours and the master sergeant said he realizes he is making a difference.

"You can really appreciate it," he said. "It has meaning. When you refuel a fighter and they drop bombs, you know you helped out. You put them back at max capability so they can wreak havoc."

The boom operator is a member of a three-member crew and teamwork is a necessity to keep everyone safe.

"I rely on Faurott from the front seat to the back of the plane," said Capt. Michael Curtis, 22nd EARS aircraft commander. "That is his area of expertise. I don't know nearly as much as hazmat or cargo. We rely on his experience and if I have not been somewhere, he can tell me what to expect. He is an integral part of the safety of the flight. He keeps us safe."

Faurott always has to keep lines of communication open with his team to keep everyone on the same page.

"We all have to work together," said 1st Lt. Josh Ishiki, 22nd EARs copilot. "Everyone has an equal setting. There is no rank per se. We each have our specific jobs and we always have line of communication."

Faurott said that having a family mentality helps keeps everybody motivated.

"I look to my crew to bring me up, and for me to bring them up when they need it," Faurott said. "If we work as a crew, not as an individual, there is nothing we can't overcome."

With 27 years in total military service, Faurott always knew he would serve his country, he said.

"It is in our family to serve," Faurott said. "My father was infantry in the Marines, and I followed him in his footsteps and joined the Army infantry at the beginning of my military career. When the Gulf War kicked off, my friend was an explosive ordnance disposal technician in the Navy and told me to join the EOD; so I did."

But there wasn't too much family time with his high-tempo job, so the boom operator joined the Guard to spend more time with his family.

Faurott, who is from Kapolei, Hawaii, met his wife in his junior year of high school, and they have been married since 1990. They have two kids who are eight and 19 years old.

All his family, four brother and three sisters, still live in Hawaii and Faurott brings his Hawaiian mentality with him when he comes to work.

"My dad always said 'Let it roll off and keep it laid back,'" Faurott recalled. "'If you wake up angry, go back to sleep,' he would say. When you are angry, it brings others down."

When most would find his job stressful, Faurott keeps this laid-back approach even when he is doing his job in the air.

After finishing refueling an aircraft, he gives the traditional native Hawaii shaka or hang loose sign to the pilots as they fly off to support Operation Enduring Freedom, leaving Faurott to enjoy his peacefulness until another aircraft needs fuel.

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