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America's New War: National Guard Gets Ready for Duty

Aired September 26, 2001 - 14:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: As the U.S. military gears up for whatever comes next, there is one National Guard unit gets ready for a crucial duty, and that is making sure the fighters in the air have enough fuel. Jeff Flock reports from the skies over Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is complex aerial ballet, and we have a front row seat.

An F-16 fighter and a giant KC-135 tanker dancing in step at 400 miles an hour. This man is the choreographer.

(on camera): How tricky is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you have the proper training it seems easy. FLOCK: You will have to do without his name. These days the military says that would make him too much of a target. We will call him Al. He's the boom operator on the airborne gas station that is the KC-135, refueling everything from B-52s, to Stealth Bombers to these F-16 fighters.

The work starts when news comes the thirsty fighters are approaching. Al heads to the back of the giant plane, and from a perch on his stomach he through his book of procedures, deploys the massive winged boom that well ferry the gas and test the controls.

Out a side window the F-16s appear on the wing.

(on camera): How soon do you think you are going to be kicking in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In about two minutes.

FLOCK (voice-over): Out the rear window Al talks and directs the fighter to within 20 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is pilot director lights over here that we can give him a signal to move forward, back, up or down.

FLOCK: The first plane locks on.

In the cockpit the captain works to keep the KC-135 steady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And six-one has disconnect. He's moving to the right.

FLOCK: One down, one to go. But this one approaches a little too fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six-one disconnect.

FLOCK: Al aborts the link-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes they are right on, sometimes they have to reaccomplish it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try this baby again.

FLOCK: This time the boom finds its mark and the gas flows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have 2,000 so far.

FLOCK: Two thousand gallons -- success. As good as he is, though, part of Al hopes his 126th air refueling wing doesn't go anywhere. He had a roofing business with his father who died just two weeks ago. Now he and his wife are expecting their first child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tough to just drop everything and leave but that's part of the game.

FLOCK: And you are ready to go if you have to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I have to, we are ready.

FLOCK: Ready. I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, aboard a KC-135 over Illinois.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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