JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
As the Air Force continues to advance agile combat employment, or ACE, more Airmen are developing and implementing innovative ideas.
Air Force Doctrine note 1-21 states, “ACE requires a revolutionary change in how the Air Force thinks about and conducts operations within the modern operational environment.”
It was exactly this type of ACE-minded thinking that drove a couple of Airmen to pursue a revolutionary idea that puts more flexibility in the hands of warfighters.
Major Ross Jensen, 437th Special Operations Division deputy director and C-17 pilot, and Maj. Tyler Jensen, 325th Weapons Squadron B-2 Weapons School instructor, are brothers who joined the Air Force for their love of aviation.
They came up with an innovative way to refuel a B-2 spirit using a C-17 Globemaster III, something that until recently, had never been done before.
After about two months of conversations, planning, and coordination, on Dec. 1, 2022, their idea was put into action. Airmen from the 437th Airlift Wing and the 509th Bomb Wing successfully refueled a B-2 with a C-17 for the first time.
Tyler explained that the most important responsibility was getting the work and coordination done in advance, to ensure a successful operation.
“Anytime you attempt to pursue something new, there will be some initial hesitation until you can show your homework and preparation to make the operation succeed,” Tyler said. “It was great to receive all of the approvals needed to execute in the end, but the bigger task was making sure the plan was sound, to ensure success.”
Their hard work paid off. Ross explained that the successful refueling operation is part of a bigger picture when it comes to expanding Air Force capabilities.
“The aircraft-to-aircraft refuel was a small part of a larger integration between the C-17s and the B-2s,” Ross said. “Really, this event was practicing ACE. Specifically, the goal of the integration was understanding how the C-17 and B-2 community’s competencies can work together and how the mobility force’s mission can best support the bomber force’s mission accomplishment.”
Although the demonstration was primarily used to confirm that the refueling was possible, Ross stated that this event's purpose was also to show how it's possible to use what you already have in new and innovative ways.
“The future war fight is going to demand that we look at how we can use tactics, techniques and procedures that we already have in creative manners, in order to maximize our effectiveness,” Ross said.
According to Ross, the two brothers have a close relationship and Tyler has always been a sort of mentor to him. Their closeness might be a reason why they were able to pull off this operation so seamlessly.
“It's cool to work with a family member, but I think the most important thing is that we both saw relevance to the war fight in what we were doing,” Ross said. “Otherwise, neither he nor I would be doing it simply for the sake of working together. We are both people who want to push the ball forward in terms of our respective communities' capability.”
For Tyler, leadership plays a big part in whether or not innovation and new ideas can work and be successful.
“It has to start with core leadership creating an environment that enables creative thinking,” Tyler said. “Leaders have to provide a willingness to accept smart risk in the spirit of pushing the boundary further, because a unit that doesn't feel that top cover will not offer up innovative ideas.”
Ross wants more Airmen to come forward with mission-changing ideas because it is vital to the future of the Air Force and the future fight.
“If you have an idea of how we can become quicker, leaner, or more flexible, there is no time like now to bring that idea forward,” Ross said. “There is an energy within Air Mobility Command and the Air Force at-large to try new things and take risks. One of the best things we can do now is find the most effective ways to use the tools we have today, to include applying old things in new ways. Airmen at all levels should feel empowered to affect this change, have an idea, and work to put it into action.”