In the Air Force a person who is responsible for in flight refueling is called a Boom Operator. The official name is In flight refueling apprentice, but that is one of those names that is rarely used in actual service. The person responsible for this is called a boom operator because they are responsible for controlling the equipment that hooks up the flying tanker with the aircraft being refueled. This equipment is in the form of a long metal arm, with different sections, called the “boom”. It is also referred to as the “flying boom”, and for this reason the operator is called the boom operator.
A person in the Air Force will be anyone from an Airman Basic to a Chief master sergeant. All boom operators are also cross-trained as aircraft loadmasters. In learning to become a loadmaster you will be responsible for the cargo that is carried in the tanker, and to make sure it is always tied down and secured for flight. You will also receive training in navigation to assist the navigation officer if maintaining and determining the geographical location of the aircraft at all times.
The Air Force title for a KC-135 boom operator is only used for paperwork and in such things as award ceremonies. Boom operators, or as they are called in slang, “boomers” are aviation crewmembers that undergo intense training to become experts at in flight refueling operations, under a variety of weather and flight conditions. The boomer is responsible for extending the long joined extendable metal boom, that connects the KC-135 refueling tanker with the different types of aircraft that receive fuel while in flight. As a boomer, you will train and fly in missions that average four and a half hours long. You will have alert status periodically, that means you will be on the alert on the ground, and restricted from leaving the base.
This is to keep you ready to fly with the aircraft 24 hours a day while on alert, as needed and required by the mission parameters.
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This “Alert” status typically lasts about seven consecutive days. As a KC-135 crewmember and boom operator, you will also be required to perform duties sometimes at other bases around the world. You are tasked with the aircraft, and if your KC-135 tanker is suddenly needed at a different location, then off you go, sometimes literally with a few moments notice. Fortunately this type of duty is not long term, and rarely lasts for more than 60 days away from your home base.