KC-46 field service representative breaks new ground at Mobility Guardian 23

April 23, 2024 in Defense

USAF veteran Ed provided live support during the largest readiness exercise in Air Mobility Command history.

Ed Musterer is no stranger to supporting missions around the world, having been deployed numerous times during 22 years of service with the U.S. Air Force.

In many ways, the call Musterer received in late June, 2023 reminded him of his service days. He learned that he would be flying to Australia to support Mobility Guardian 23, the Air Mobility Command’s latest annual exercise used to sharpen emerging operational concepts in the Indo-Pacific.

Since two of the four KC-46A Pegasus tankers and roughly half of the USAF personnel supporting MG23 in Northern Australia hailed from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas – where Musterer was stationed for his entire military career – it seemed fitting that the former master sergeant who still works at the base was set to become the first KC-46 field service representative to provide on-the-ground support during the exercise.

“Seeing how the Air Force is operating the airframe out in the field is value-added for us as FSRs,” he said, “so we can better support the customer.”

Musterer made an immediate impact following his 24-hour flight to Australia’s Northern Territory. On his first night working at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin – located on the Indian Ocean about 1,700 miles southeast of Jakarta, Indonesia – he assisted the USAF with refueling operations, including the aircraft’s compatibility with the location’s hydrant fuel system.

“If we tried to troubleshoot this from afar, it would’ve led to a lot of phone calls instead of working through the issues live,” he explained.

Boeing KC-46 field service representative Ed Musterer (second from right) poses with U.S. Air Force maintenance leaders in front of a KC-46A Pegasus tanker from McConnell Air Force Base at RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia. (TSgt Heather Clements / U.S. Air Force photo)

About 14 percent of Boeing’s U.S. workforce is comprised of veterans. Those who work in Defense, Space & Security, like Musterer, continue to support a global mission after their military careers end.

More than 15,000 U.S. and international global forces conducted simultaneous exercises across the Indo-Pacific for MG23, making it the largest readiness exercise in the Air Mobility Command’s history. Detachments from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and New Zealand joined the United States in participating.

Each morning during his two-week assignment, Musterer poured through Aircraft Health Management (AHM) data from the day before to ensure the tankers on hand were operating effectively. As the KC-46A fleet has grown – more than 80 now operate for global customers – the U.S. Air Force and other operators gain increasing sustainment lifecycle advantages and economies of scale. With AHM, the KC-46A’s tens of thousands of flight hours and maintenance tasks provide a wealth of data for predictive maintenance as well as fine tuning the maintenance program based on service information to optimize performance, dependability and also gain cost savings.

Musterer was invited to all of the maintenance meetings and attended mission debriefs. He also worked daily with servicemembers from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, who were deployed to RAAF Darwin alongside McConnell personnel to provide supply, logistics and operations support for the KC-46A.

KC-46 field service representative Ed Musterer poses at RAAF Base Darwin after arriving in Australia to support Mobility Guardian 23. Musterer became the first KC-46 FSR to provide on-the-ground support during the annual exercise used to sharpen emerging operational concepts in the Indo-Pacific. (Ed Musterer / Boeing photo)

With much of the MG23 focusing on Agile Combat Employment – an operational concept that emphasizes flexibility and adaptability to enhance air power – Musterer noted that the multi-role capabilities of the Pegasus were on full display in the Northern Territory.

“The Air Force didn’t concentrate solely on air refueling,” he said. “They simulated aeromedical evacuations and conducted lots of tactical missions where the KC-46A was basically used like an echo from an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) plane. They also coordinated C2 (command and control) missions with other aircraft in the field, so it was a wide spectrum of testing the capability of the KC-46A.”

Armed with data links and ready for Advanced Battle Management Systems (ABMS) integration, the Pegasus connects multi-domain warfighters to provide tactical situational awareness and real-time information superiority.

A KC-46A Pegasus tanker taxis to its stall at RAAF Base Darwin following a 22-hour mission supporting Mobility Guardian 23. (Ed Musterer / Boeing photo)

“As the world changes, we have to change the way we play in the field and the way we fight the fight,” Musterer said. “As others become more advanced, we need to keep pace with them.

"The KC-46A does that with its different systems and the advancements of the aircraft’s avionics and communications.”

Musterer said his presence was a welcome sight for the airmen, especially those he works with every day at McConnell.

“Once I got to Australia, everyone was excited that I was actually on site with them and was able to support them like I do at home station,” he said. “It gave them that comfortable feeling that Boeing is there to support no matter where they are in the world.”


A KC-46A Pegasus tanker undergoes post-flight inspection at RAAF Base Darwin following a 22-hour mission in support of Mobility Guardian 23. (Ed Musterer / Boeing photo)