In January 2013, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Todd McDonald (Col ’91) and Capt. Evan Fillman (Engr ’08) deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. When they deployed from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, they had no idea they were both Wahoos.
About a month into their deployment, McDonald spotted Fillman wearing a UVA t-shirt at the gym, and the two realized their UVA connection.
The two KC-10 pilots were not on the same crew for day-to-day operations, but shortly after their meeting in the gym, they were scheduled to fly a combat mission together. It was “sheer luck,” says Fillman, “a happy coincidence that we were able to fly together.”
The KC-10 is the military’s largest air-to-air refueling platform, a huge plane that transports cargo but is specially designed to run air to air refueling missions. “It has the ability to [carry and] deliver 40,000 gallons of jet fuel to coalition aircraft in a single sortie,” says Fillman.
McDonald has been flying KC-10s for more than 20 years, and he happily passed along advice to Fillman, who has been flying KC-10s for 2 years. While in the air, they reminisced about the Grounds, Rugby Road, and Air Force ROTC Detachment 890, UVA’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.
“It was a great moment, especially for me as a young KC-10 pilot, to be able to fly with an extremely experienced pilot who also went to UVA,” says Fillman.