Air tanker commander perseveres in Qatar

Posted: Monday, October 07, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- In the month that Alaska Air National Guard Col. Tim Scott has been deployed to Qatar, he has to endure getting four to five hours of sleep a night, well above 100-degree weather and the constant wind-swept sand that leaves him feeling perpetually grimy. As commander of the 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Scott has had a busy year in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

''This is an exciting place. It's definitely out of the normal day to day routine,'' he said in an interview.

The colonel, who's waiting for a promotion to brigadier general, has spent the last year working on refueling missions over Alaska, along with deployments to Hawaii, Guam and Oman. Now it's Qatar, in the Middle East.

He's been in charge of about 2,000 troops of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar since Sept. 4.

''The day-to-day operations around here are very similar, but much more active,'' Scott said in a telephone interview from Qatar. ''Just the pace of things is probably double.''

Around-the-clock refueling missions flown by air tanker KC-135s and KC-10s stationed at the base and the constant stream of dignitaries to Al Udeid keep Scott short on sleep.

''This is the largest, most active base in the Central Command,'' Scott said.

The U.S. Central Command includes 25 countries as far north as Kazakhstan, through the Middle East and into northern Africa as far south as Kenya.

Qatar, an Arab country about the size of Connecticut, is in the middle of the region and the center of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the Persian Gulf. It is about 700 miles from Baghdad, Iraq, and could be important for enforcing U.N. sanctions or military operations in the region.

Phone calls from the base are usually monitored and limited. Scott must rely on e-mail and a weekly 15- to 20-minute phone call for regular conversations with his wife.

Despite being far from home, Scott says morale is high at Al Udeid.

''Everybody has a common vision and a common goal ... Everybody knows what needs to be done,'' he said.

''All of my airmen, from airman to colonel, know what is at stake. We are as dedicated a group of warriors as you will ever find.''

The base, owned by the Qatari Armed Forces, has the longest runway in the region at 15,000 feet.

Scott has been with the Air National Guard since 1989 and commander of the 168th for the past two years.

''This is the first time I've ever been in this kind of position,'' he said. ''It's extremely satisfying. This is what being in the military is about.''

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