Joe Riener retires from Air Force
Itís been a very interesting twenty years since graduation from Prairie High.  I entered the Air Force the summer after graduation and was sent through training in Texas, Washington and California to qualify as an in-flight refueling specialist.  I am a flight crewmember on large four engine jet tanker aircraft.  My primary job is to crawl into a small space at the rear of the aircraft and fly a 4 inch diameter refueling nozzle, at the end of a refueling boom, into a 4.5 inch diameter receptacle on top of the receiver aircraft using a set of flight controls and various hydraulic controls.  When hooked together, the two aircraft are a mere 23 feet apart, flying up to 500 m.p.h., flying in turns, climbs and descents all the while transferring 1000 gallons of fuel per minute.  Without this air refueling capability, it would take our military forces weeks to reach combat areas where time is critical.  It also allows our fighter aircraft to engage enemy forces with full fuel tanks while their opponents are limited to returning to a land base to refuel.  My job is extremely unique.  There are currently 700 or so boom operators in the world, in contrast, there are around 1500 brain surgeons in the United States.  I have been privileged to see the world from this unique view point.
After training I was assigned to a small bomber base in Blytheville Arkansas.  I participated in the US nuclear deterrent force during the remainder of the cold war as well as numerous European, Alaskan and Pacific task forces.  During one of my first trips out of the United States, I was sent to Saudi Arabia to patrol the border while Iraq was fighting Iran.  That was the first time I went to the Middle East to baby sit Saddam Hussein.  Now twenty years later, I have been there 14 times to contain Hussein inside his own borders, enforce a no-fly zone, stop him from attacking his neighbors, or prevent him from killing his own citizens and finally to defeat him ourselves.  It was not my plan to spend twenty years, watching uncounted taxpayer dollars being spent to baby-sit this one evil thug.  Ironically, I retired on June 30th; the same day that the US lead coalition in Iraq will handed over control to a new, free and democratic government without Saddam Hussein! 
I was in Arkansas from 1984 to 1990, where I upgraded to flight instructor and flight evaluator.  I married a girl from Missouri in 1989 and we moved to California in 1990.  I was stationed in the central San-Juaqin Valley where I taught kids right out of high school to fly as Air Force tanker crewmembers.  We never had any children and in 1993 divorced due to differences in where we wanted to go for our next assignment.  You can take the girl out of the south, but you canít take the south out of the girl!  She went back to the south and I moved to Spokane in 1994, assigned to the 92nd Air Refueling Wing.  Before leaving California, I earned two associate of science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force in Aircrew Operations and Instructor of Technology and Military Sciences.  I also trained 13 students through the grueling eight week course of basic flight instruction, including classroom, simulator and actual in-flight training. 
Since being stationed in Spokane, I have done many jobs for the Air Force including Non Commissioned Officer in Charge of wing long range scheduling, mission development coordinator, avionics upgrade test and evaluation team member, wing flight examiner, squadron training flight and on occasion the head burger flipper at squadron picnics!  
September 11th, 2001 changed the world for all of us, but profoundly for the military.  I was supposed to fly a mission that night, so I was at home watching the news when the first hijacked air liner impacted the World Trade center.  Once I realized our nation was under attack, I inventoried and packed my chemical warfare gear and other combat items and called into work, to volunteer to be the first out.  I was flying a jet to war 16 hours later.  The terrorists toppled two very prominent buildings on that terrible day, and in the next two years our military toppled two nations.  I pity the terrorist nation that is fool hardy enough to attack the United States of America on her own soil.
I retired from the military October 1st, and returned to Cottonwood to work with my brother Gary at Rienerís Grocery!  It is a day Iíve looked forward to for many years! My military career ended with 6000 flying hours in heavy jets. I visited 37 countries and every state in the union.  I was awarded the following military decorations over the last twenty years:  The Meritorious Service Medal, Three Aerial Achievement  Medals, Three Commendation Medals, Two Air Force Achievement Medals, Five Outstanding Unit Awards one of those with Valor, Five Combat Readiness Medals, Six Good Conduct Medals, The National Defense Service Ribbon awarded by congress for service during war for Desert Storm, The Cold War, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Two Presidential Expeditionary Medals, Three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, Five Longevity Awards, Three Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Military Education Graduation Ribbons one as a Distinguished Graduate from the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, The Expert Marksmanship Ribbon for both .38 cal and 9mm hand-gun, the Basic Military Training Ribbon, the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal Royal Kingdom of Kuwait, the Global War on Terrorism ribbon and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
I look forward to the next chapter in my life as a civilian member of the greatest community on earth.  I feel uniquely qualified to say that, since I have seen the world a couple times over and I know that we live in the best place on the planet.  I am looking forward to doing my part to help keep our little town the wonderful, safe, fun, and successful place that I remember when I grew up.    Thank you for all you support, direct and in-direct over my twenty years of military service and accept my gratitude and assistance when ever or where ever you may have a need!
Sincerely,
Joe Riener
That's me taking a metal cover off of an emergency escape slide, turning it over, sitting in it and racing down the cargo compartment of my airplane on the cargo floor rollers!
That's me basking under the rainbow on the deck of my house.  Cottonwood is my pot of gold!
A new avionics upgrade, which I helped test is called the Global Air Transportation Management (GATM) system.  It upgraded and replaced all of our old analog instrumentation and navigation systems with state of the art digital and computer display instrumentation.  It was a huge leap forward for the tanker fleet, which originally entered service in 1955!
 Prior to 1988, the KC-135 jet tanker used Pratt and Whitney J-57 jet engines.  They were grossly under-powered and used a water injection system to augment thrust on takeoff.  This caused an enourmous amount of black smoke from the engines, as seen in this picture.

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