End of an Era for the 514th Air Mobility Wing

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Sean Evans

Several squadrons in the 514th Air Mobility Wing have been in a state of transition as a new generation of aircraft roll out to replace an older generation.  

Members of the 76th and 78th Air Refueling Squadrons, 514th AMW, crewed a KC-10 Extender for the last time at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, on Dec. 21.

The 514th AMW began flying and maintaining the KC-10 in 1994.

Some members from the refueling squadrons rode as passengers during the local flight. One passenger was Master Sgt. Phillip Culotta, a boom operator with the 78th ARS who has been on 11 deployments with a KC-10.

“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to work on the KC-10," said Culotta. “It’s taken me to every continent except Antarctica."

It was an opportunity for them to experience one last flight with an aircraft that had been a significant part of their military service.

“I’ve been serving for 19 years and until I became a cop, this was all I knew," Culotta said. “This plane has been a huge part of my adult life."

Lt. Col. Greg DiPenta, 514th Operations Group deputy commander, who has flown with the aircraft since it first arrived 22 years ago, will also witness its transition away from the 514th AMW.

“It’s been our life. In that amount of time, you get to watch young people first get hired to later become squadron commander”, said DiPenta. “It really is a family, getting to watch someone progress so far around the same aircraft and same squadron”.

As the U.S. Air Force continues to modernize their air-fleet, the aircraft operated by the 514th AMW also change.

“It’s a bittersweet but a necessary change”, said DiPenta. “The transition is inevitable. We need different combat capabilities to stay on the edge of modern technology”.

DiPenta has had many experiences that include the KC-10 in his Air Force career. His most significant experience with the KC-10 was on 9/11, when the 514th were flying local missions when the first tower at the World Trade Center was struck.

“Most airplanes had to be grounded but we stayed up there to provide fuel for the jet fighters that began patrolling New York City”, DiPenta said. “The 514th proudly delivered that air refuel capability to keep those fighter jets in the air since we didn’t know what other enemy might be coming at us”.

Many Reserve Citizen Airmen that have operated and maintained the KC-10, such as Culotta and DiPenta, will remember the aircraft fondly as one era comes to an end, and another begins.

“The most important fact that we must acknowledge is that in 28 years, every mission, every time we’ve flown the KC-10, we’ve gotten back safely”.