EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska –
The Alaska Air National Guard's 168th Wing received a visit from Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly as he thanked them for their service and saw the Fairbanks new tail flash on the Wing's KC-135 air refueling flagship aircraft for the first time. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Matherly wanted to stop in and thank the Airmen for their service as events occur around the world.
“It was my honor to visit Eielson and Alaska Air National Guard's 168th Wing,” said Mayor Jim Matherly, City of Fairbanks. “Given the difficulties going on around the world, I am more grateful than ever for our airmen and other military personnel and appreciate everything they do to keep our country and state safe.”
This past December, the 168th Wing dedicated their flagship to honor Fairbanks, Alaska, the city it calls home, with the polar bear and Fairbanks proudly displayed on the tail. Matherly was unable to recognize the Wing's new tail flash, and the Airmen dedicated to the community, state, and Nation due to COVID restrictions at the time.
"We are glad the Mayor was able to make it out with the turbulent year we have all had — it made it hard to have an open house for our community to dedicate our new tail flash,” said Col. Richard Adams, commander of the 168th Wing. “We wanted to continue forward to bring our state together with the new art on our aircraft. Let it be known when we fly — it is an honor to represent the Golden Heart of Fairbanks."
A flagship aircraft is a dedicated aircraft with the wing commander and the dedicated crew chiefs' names on it. The jet represents the entire wing and is maintained to the highest of standards. The dedicated crew chiefs for the flagship are Tech. Sgt. Robert Albaugh and Staff Sgt. Elliot St. Laurent.
"We have strong ties with our local communities, and Fairbanks is where many of our Airmen live, work, and raise their children," said Adams. "We want to thank our community for their support of our hometown Airmen by proudly flying our KC-135 flagship."
The aircraft's tail has a polar bear standing strong on the wing's tail flash, representing Alaska's arctic region and spirit. The geometric design of the polar bear highlights the wing's culture of innovation.
The Fairbanks flagship aircraft is one of nine KC-135 aircraft flown by the 168th Wing. The other eight aircraft all have the polar bear tail flash and each have a different community from interior Alaska. Those communities are Minto, Gwichyaa Zhee, Grayling, Huslia, Tetlin, Telida, Tanana, and North Pole.
"Alaskans serve together, and the Fairbanks flagship — along with all of the other interior communities represented on our aircraft — represents our arctic community spirit," said Adams.