As the shiny silver shovels cut through the grass, smiles and applause came over the crowd at McConnell Air Force Base.
The long 11-year mission to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers and make Wichita their home base finally was realized with a groundbreaking for new hangars.
"What better place for these new birds than the Air Capital?" Sen. Pat Roberts asked rhetorically to a huge round of cheers.
Roberts and other elected officials worked for years to convince colleagues in Washington to spend the money to replace the KC-135. They also worked to convince the Air Force that McConnell was the base base best suited to head up their refueling missions.
The responsibility helps ensure McConnell stays relevant in a age of base realignments and closures.
The first of 36 Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tankers is set for delivery at McConnell in 2016.