Granton Educator Takes to the Sky

 Alice Painter, Granton Special Education Teacher 2022

Alice Painter, Granton special education teacher, enjoyed flying with the Air National Guard
on a refueling mission Aug. 6.
Submitted photos

By Valorie Brecht  


Granton teacher Alice Painter recently got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by joining the 128th Air National Guard on a refueling mission Aug. 6.


Painter teaches middle/high school special education students. She went on a flight specifically for educators. Thirty teachers from Wisconsin and Minnesota boarded two separate flights on Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers to fly out of Milwaukee to Missouri, where they met up with two B2 stealth bombers from the Air Force and refueled them in midflight.


“I hadn’t heard of it before. Our district administrator had forwarded an email to all the staff about it… I filled out the application on a whim. I didn’t expect to get selected. A couple weeks before the flight, I got an email saying I was selected for it,” said Painter.


She said that as far as she knew, the selection process was random.


She booked a hotel in Milwaukee. She drove there the night before and stayed overnight. The next day started with breakfast at 8:30. Then the teachers got a briefing about what would happen and heard a presentation about the Air National Guard and the benefits of it.


They boarded the flight around 11 a.m. and were back around 2:30 p.m. Once they had reached the desired altitude, they got to walk around the plane and look at the cockpit. They received a boxed lunch from Panera.


Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker View


Shown is the view from the bottom of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
as it lines up with the B2 stealth bomber to refuel it.


For the refueling, the boom operator goes into a small pod underneath the airplane, lies on his stomach and operates the controls. There are two boom operators, and they are only allowed to operate the boom for 10 minutes at a time. Two teachers at a time got to climb down into the pod and lie down next to the boom operator to watch.


“It was cool because we got to see from the boom operator’s vantage point, but also see the other plane as it refueled the other bomber,” said Painter.


In the event that one of the stealth bombers had to take off suddenly to deliver supplies to a disaster or war zone, it might take off with enough fuel to reach its destination but not enough to fly back, which would necessitate another plane coming to refuel it. That was the maneuver that the planes were practicing when Painter went on the flight.


There were two pilots, one assistant and two other staff members who joined the flight to answer any questions the teachers might have.  


All in all, Painter enjoyed the experience.


“I’ll be honest—initially, I wasn’t that excited about it because of the cost. The state fair was going on, so my hotel room was more expensive. But once I actually got on the flight and was in the middle of it, I felt that it was definitely worth it, because how many people get to do something like this?” said Painter.


Also over the course of the day, she learned more about the Air National Guard and all its benefits—information she can pass on to students considering a potential future career path.


The Air Guard has both a federal and state mission. When a regional or local disaster strikes, Air Guard units may be activated by a state governor to protect the lives of American citizens or provide relief. In times of global crisis or contingency, the Air Guard may be called upon by the president to be part of the active duty Air Force.


The Air National Guard starts with an eight-week training and then the recruit goes to technical college for four to six months for the specific job for which he or she will be responsible.


“You get to pick the job you want and then apply for that job,” explained Painter.


After that training is complete, the recruit is required to train one weekend a month and two weeks a year at the base. The recruit can enroll in any UW system school and the Air National Guard will pay for schooling, plus provide a $350 stipend per month for living expenses.


Painter also said the Guard will help with housing expenses while going through military training.


“If you sign up for the Milwaukee Guard, that’s your base. Travel isn’t a requirement. You can stay on base. And if your home is outside of 15 miles away, they will put you up in a hotel while you do your training,” said Painter.


Air Guard members also receive a paycheck and benefits package for their service.


“You get the opportunity to learn a good trade, like metal fabrication for example,” said Painter. “If you’re young and a little adventurous, there’s all sorts of opportunities with it. The commitment is not huge, and you get to go out in the world and do good things.”


From the Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 24, 2022

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon, August 26, 2022

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, August 27, 2022

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