Tuesday marked an important moment in the history for Altus Air Force Base and the Altus community with the addition of the 56th Air Refueling Squadron.
This is the first and only Air Force KC-46 Pegasus formal training unit.
Altus Air Force Base is known for its training programs and facilities. It’s proximity to Fort Sill was also a selling point for the addition of this squadron to Altus.
A ceremony was held Tuesday morning to activate the new squadron and immediately turn over command to Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Ruttenber.
Distinguished visitors from Oklahoma included Republican Gov. Mary Fallin; U.S. Sens. James Inhofe (R-Tulsa) and James Lankford (R-Edmond); U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Yukon) of Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District; state Sen. Mike Schulz (R-Altus), state District 52 Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus) and Dr. Joe Leverett of Altus.
Adding this squadron to Altus Air Force Base means a population increase to the base, Altus and surrounding communities.
“This new fleet will bring a huge economic impact in the form of jobs not only within the United States Air Force, but also for our civilians with an estimated 200 to 250 jobs,” Fallin said.
Fallin went on to speak about the need for more housing to accommodate the families that will be coming to the area because of this new air refueling squadron with an estimated 300 new homes needed.
The first KC-46 Pegasus aircraft will not be in Altus until sometime next year, but leaders are planning for the arrival.
“The foundation of its success begins at Altus Air Force Base with training and education before the first KC-46 arrives,” said Gen. Carlton Everhart, commander of the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.
This move is the product of decades of planning to keep the Air Force aircraft updated and innovative as far as its reach extends. This extensive planning will bring years of service to the Altus area.
The KC-46 outshines it’s predecessor, the KC-135, with modernized equipment that will help stop fuel leaks, allow the aircraft to operate effectively in all weather conditions, carry cargo, and use a video feed to help refuel aircraft from all branches of the U.S. military and, eventually, many allied countries.
“With the 56th Air Refueling Squadron comes long-term commitment to economic growth,” Lucas said.
The ceremony wrapped up with a ribbon cutting and dedication of the Leverett KC-46 Flight Training Center in recognition of Leverett’s community service to the Air Force in general and Altus Air Force Base in particular.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.