Boom operator takes final flight after 41 years of service

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, refuels an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio in the skies over Ohio Nov. 26, 2014. Guard was taking his final flight after 41 years of service in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, refuels an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio in the skies over Ohio Nov. 26, 2014. Guard was taking his final flight after 41 years of service in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, receives a shower after his final flight  Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard served 41 years in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, receives a shower after his final flight Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard served 41 years in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, gets a ride in a wheelchair from Lt. Col. Joe Contino Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard had just completed his final flight after 41 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing, gets a ride in a wheelchair from Lt. Col. Joe Contino Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard had just completed his final flight after 41 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing takes his final flight before retirement Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard served 41 years in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, a boom operator in the 121st Air Refueling Wing takes his final flight before retirement Nov. 26, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Guard served 41 years in the military and is set to retire on Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Branson/Released)

RICKENBACKER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Oh -- Chief Master Sgt. Tom Guard, chief boom operator in the Ohio National Guard's 121st Air Refueling Wing, took his final flight on a KC-135R Stratotanker here Nov. 26. The mission included refueling two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 180th Fighter Wing, Toledo, Ohio. 

One of the steps in the aircrew checklist is to announce over the intercom system "boom stowed" after the refueling is finished and the boom is fully reattached to the aircraft. For Guard's last flight, he said, "boom stowed for the last time."

Upon landing, Guard was hosed down with water and champagne and seated in a wheelchair as aircrew "fini" flight tradition dictates. Friends, family members, and Airmen of the 121st ARW gathered on the flight line for the ceremony.

Chief Guard is set to retire on Dec 19, 2014 after serving more than 41 years in the military. He joined the Ohio Air National Guard after eight years in the active duty Air Force. Guard started his career as a weapons loader, then became a boom operator in 1992 and has accumulated over 5,200 hours.

One of Guard's hairiest memories was of refueling U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets over the Atlantic at night in rough weather. "I couldn't see the hornets at all and only knew to make contact when the shadow of the drogue basket moved," he said.

When asked about serving in the Ohio Air National Guard for so many years, Chief Guard said, "I just loved seeing the people out here. That's why I come. This place is like no other."