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Man’s Military career stems from childhood love of aviation

While growing up Sanchez was inspired by seeing planes fly in and out of Sky Harbor.

PHOENIX — When Hilario Sanchez was a young boy living in south Phoenix he used to watch the big planes from Sky Harbor fly over the old Food City grocery store that was near 16th street and Mojave Street.

“Whoa, that is cool,” Sanchez recalls saying as he saw the planes as a child. 

“I was just an awe. That is awesome. I’d like to do that. I’d like to be in one of those things someday.”

 What started as a childhood dream turned into a military career serving Arizona and the country.

The boy with a dream of aviation is now SMSgt Hilario Sanchez. He has been serving with the 161st Air Refueling Wing based at the Goldwater Arizona Air National Guard base for the past 25 years.

“Just an asset to our military. That’s why we’re the number one military in the world because of what we can do,” said Sanchez.

The 161st Refueling Wing keeps our military airborne refueling fighter jets while in flight.

“Important part of the military strategy. Being able to get your airplanes across the Atlantic or across the Pacific without stopping,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez is the boom operator. The boom is the large stick that’s deployed out of the back of the tanker. It delivers fuel to the fighter jets in midair.

“The boom is an awesome job. It’s dangerous but rewarding,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez said with the risk of peril comes a spectacular view.

“You pop open that window in the back and you got a great view of whatever is down below. It could be snowcapped mountains. It could be canyons. It could be forest. It could be desert,” said Sanchez.

Prior to serving with the Air National Guard Sanchez was a mechanic with the Air Force Reserve stationed at Luke Air Force base. He’s proud of his 34 years of service.

“We help the cause. The world cause for freedom in the world,” said Sanchez.

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