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Refueling a stealth bomber mid-air? No sweat.

For Brad Love, it's just another day's work

May 15, 2012

Oak Creek - Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Brad Love speaks of his work refueling B-2 Stealth Bombers, F-16 fighter jets and other U.S. military aircraft in midair as casually as if he was pumping unleaded gasoline into a minivan at the local filling station.

"My training prepared me so thoroughly for any situation and I've completed enough missions, so it's no big deal," said Love, a boom operator from the 128th Air Refueling Wing stationed at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport. "It's a job - although, it's awesome."

A nine-year National Guard member, Love served a six-month stint as a military policeman in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. Seeking a change of pace, he applied to become an in-flight refueler shortly after returning to the States, and subsequently underwent extensive instruction at military aviation schools across the country.

"Boom operator is a prestigious job in the Air Force - one of the best positions to hold, I've been told by other armed forces people," Love said. "It's always something different."

On any given day, Love and his two-pilot crew may be flying in their KC-135 tanker over Illinois, Lake Superior, Missouri, or pockets of the northeast to rendezvous with military aircraft at speeds of up to 300 mph.

Lying on his stomach, he guides the neighboring airplane to within feet of his own and extends a "boom" into the other's receptacle. Within five minutes, the tanker will pump 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of jet fuel, uncouple and proceed back to Milwaukee.

The heady experience leaves the 28-year-old unable to envision working for a different employer, even though he also has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in accounting at his disposal.

"I've matured a lot since I joined the military, and it's been good to my family," said Love, who lives in Oak Creek with his wife, Jamie, and 10-month-old daughter, Adelyn. "I've made friends all over the world, due to my time in the Guard."

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