None of them were supposed to be here. Two pairs
of brothers thrown together as if a game of jacks were being played
with aircraft and aircrew; each one being snatched up and dropped
randomly at a Royal Air Force base in the eastern Mediterranean.
But before anyone could swipe all the Air Force aviators back up,
the pairs of brothers turned a chance deployment into a family
reunion while fighting the global war on terrorism.
Tony and John Mauer, and Nick and Eric Adcock are deployed to
the 401st Air Expeditionary Wing supporting Operation Iraqi
Freedom. "John and I have spent more time together on this
deployment than we have in the last 10 years," said Col. Tony
Mauer, 401st AEW vice commander. His home station is RAF
Mildenhall, England, where he commands the 100th Operations Group.
His brother, Maj. John Mauer, is a navigator assigned to the 970th
Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
Oregon natives, Tony is a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot, and John
navigates the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system
aircraft. Although only one year separates the two, their career
paths couldn't have been farther apart. "I truly enjoy the Air
Force. After 20 years, I still love what I'm doing," said Tony, an
Air Force Academy graduate who has commanded at the squadron and
group level and is set to command the air refueling wing at
Fairchild AFB, Wash. [Below: Col. Tony Mauer (left) and 1st Lt.
"I've had many opportunities to leave throughout my career and
fly with the airlines, but I love being an Air Force pilot. I have
always been proud of being a tanker pilot," he said. While Tony was
in the academy, John enlisted after high school and after a few
years on active duty, decided he wanted to fly. Then-Sergeant Mauer
finished his degree in the evenings, was accepted to Officer
Training School and earned his commission.
"I spent my career in the active duty as a (weapon systems
officer) in the F-4 (Phantom) and F-15E (Strike Eagle). Tony and I
have always had a brotherly rivalry. I flew fighters and Tony never
passed up an opportunity to let me know 'no one kicks ass without
tanker gas'," said John. "I've never been stationed anywhere near
Tony, so serving under him on this deployment has been a unique
experience. For now I can't tell him 'you're not the boss of
me.’ Actually, I'm very proud of him.”
John retired from active duty in 1999 and after three years as a
defense contractor, he heard of a new program that let active-duty
retirees join the Air Force Reserve. He was one of the first
officers to be approved for the new program. [Below: First Lt. Eric
Adcock (right), a KC-135 Stratotanker co-pilot, watches as Airman
1st Class Kenny Harwood, boom operator, refuels an E-8C Joint Stars
aircraft. Adcock's older brother, 1st Lt. Nick Adcock, was the
pilot of the E-8C being refueled.]
"I still had some fight left in me, and luckily the 970th gave
me another chance to serve," said John. In mid-January 2003, he
completed AWACS flight training and was deployed to Incirlik Air
Base, Turkey, six days later.
"We spent 60 days flying Operation Northern Watch missions, and
I fully expected to fight the war from Turkey,” he said. But,
that did not happen. His entire unit moved with very little
“I knew Tony had also been deployed, but I didn't know
where to, so it was awesome to have him meet me when I arrived," he
said. Intersecting only for brief moments in the air to pass some
fuel was an appropriate end to their time together here.
"The first time I refueled John he was flying an F-4 in 1986,
and we thought this could be a fairly common event for us over the
course of our careers," said Tony. "However, it took 10 years for
it to happen again and this time in an F-15E. With John retiring
soon after that, we thought it was our last opportunity. Now that
John has returned to flying AWACS and we've done our third
refueling, I don't want to say it won't happen again. With me going
to Fairchild and continuing to fly KC-135s, who knows, stranger
things have happened."
Although the Adcocks have not been away quite as long as the
Mauers, Nick, a E-8C Joint Stars pilot, echoed the same sentiments
that he and Eric, both first lieutenants, have spent more time
together in two months than in the last five years combined. Flying
has been in the blood of the Adcock family long before Nick and
Eric earned their Air Force pilot wings. Raised in Cabot, Ark.,
they literally had a lot of family to “look up to.”
"Our grandfather was a pilot, along with our father, uncle and
cousin," said Nick, the elder of the two brothers by one and a half
After high school Nick and Eric went their separate ways. Nick
went to the University of Arkansas and Eric went to the Air Force
Academy a year later. After graduating from college, Nick earned
his wings and has been flying E-8Cs, while Eric has been flying
KC-135s. "This is our first deployment together," said Eric, a
co-pilot deployed from the 351st Air Refueling Squadron at RAF
Mildenhall. "I heard through a briefing shortly after we arrived
that E-8s might be arriving but I had no idea Nick was coming."
Shortly after Nick arrived, he and Eric passed each other on the
"I was driving a 17-passenger bus for our squadron after we
landed. I passed Eric as he was walking by and honked the horn at
him. We called our mom that evening and I said, 'You're never going
to guess who's here with me,'" said Nick, who is deployed from the
16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Robins Air Force
Base, Ga. When Eric refueled his older brother over the
Mediterranean, they said they were both excited.
"It was a highlight just to see each other on the deployment,"
said Eric. Eric was able to watch the air refueling in the back of
the aircraft while the boom operator delivered fuel to his
brother's aircraft. Both Adcocks said the flight was definitely
something they would remember throughout their careers.
As for the next time they see each other, Eric was quick to
point out that it better be this summer.
"He's my best man in my wedding," he said. As aircraft and
people deploy back to their home stations and the air war over Iraq
comes to an end, so must the short reunion of brothers. Call it
chance, fate or even luck; the bonds that tie brothers are special
-- no matter where you end up in the world. [ANN Thanks Capt. Shane
Balken, 401st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs]