By Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Maria Liu, right, of the Hawaii Air National Guard
was greeted by State Adjutant General Edward Richardson
yesterday upon the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron's return
from France, where it refueled NATO fighters involved
in patrolling the no-fly zone over Bosnia.
Isle GuardStar-Bulletin staff
The first group of Hawaii Air National Guard personnel who have spent the last few weeks in France refueling Kosovo-bound fighters and bombers returned home yesterday.
A total of nearly 200 members and at least five jet tankers of the guard's 203rd Air Refueling Squadron were sent to Istres, France, on Feb. 27 to refuel NATO fighters involved in patrolling the no-fly zone over Bosnia.
But when the war effort against Kosovo began, the tankers were shifted to support fighters and bombers involved in the operation.
All members of the 203rd are supposed to be back in Hawaii by tomorrow, with another tanker scheduled to arrive at Hickam Air Force Base sometime today.
Lt. Col. Edwin "Skip" Vincent, the squadron commander, said his unit's last mission was Thursday.
This is not the first time the squadron has been involved in such operations.
Last November, three of the squadron's nine jet tankers were deployed to Alaska to form an air bridge over the Pacific by refueling B-52 bombers flying to the Persian Gulf.
In September 1996 the unit was again deployed to participate in Operation Desert Strike, refueling B-52 bombers which carried cruise missiles that were launched against Iraq.
On two other occasions beginning in 1995, the 203rd was sent to Europe to help in the NATO effort to patrol the skies over Bosnia.