The Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, has been a gateway to Afghanistan for troops and supplies since its opening in December 2001. Now, with the base scheduled to close when the lease runs out on July 11, 2014, the Transit Center at Manas’ is also closing, according to U.S. Air Force public affairs. Besides being a supply line, the base has also been home to U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, who have kept aircraft over Afghanistan fueled and in the fight. On Feb. 24, the last aerial refueling mission over Afghanistan from the Transit Center at Manas landed, wrote Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards. During its 12 and a half years, KC-135 Stratotankers from the Transit Center at Manas conducted 33,500 sorties and refueled 135,000 aircraft. Those 135,000 aircraft received 625,000 gallons of gas, which is enough to fill 9,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. “I wish there was an honest way to track how many times a tanker mission has directly affected troops on the ground,” said Col. Mike Seiler, 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, who piloted the final mission.
The six-hour final mission was eventful. The KC-135 Stratotanker refueled A-10 Thunderbolt IIs (who might soon see their own end approaching) and F-16 Fighting Falcons. “It’s a pretty special to be able to say that we were able to fly on the last sortie out of Manas,” said Seiler, who is deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. “When [I] think about it, we flew our last sortie just like we did our first one: fighter support, troops in contact. … I got chills rolling down the runway for the last time.”
The missions conducted at the Transit Center at Manas are being transferred to a new air hub at Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase.