More than 300 Airmen assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing deployed to Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence mission Aug. 9.
Aircrews, maintenance and support personnel, will be generating B-1 bomber sorties to demonstrate the continuing U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, providing commanders with a strategic power projection platform.
“I think this deployment is extremely important,” said Lt. Col. Seth Spanier, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS) commander. “The Pacific is going through a time of increasing instability and tensions. I think bringing the men and women of our B-1s to the area of responsibility will provide that visible assurance to our allies and partners.”
The 300 Airmen will join several B-1 bombers and personnel who arrived in Guam earlier this week, taking the baton from Airmen and B-52 Stratofortress bombers assigned to Minot AFB, North Dakota.
“The handoff between the B-1s and the B-52s has been seamless so far,” Spanier said. “I think that really pays credence to the amount of integration the bombers have been doing lately across the Air Force.”
According to Spanier, Ellsworth has been preparing the Airmen of the 34th Bomb Squadron, who have been training for this particular deployment for almost a year by taking part in major large force exercises across the U.S.
“Bombers in general are well-suited to the vast distances and challenges of the Pacific,” Spanier said. “The B-1 bomber is specifically suited for the Pacific region.”
Spanier said the B-1 is bringing long-range capability, speed, flexibility, a multitude of weapons for the aircraft, advanced sensors, modern defense avionics systems, and targeting pods.
As a long-range, multi-role, heavy bomber, the B-1 can fly more than 900 miles per hour and carry more than 75,000 pounds of munitions.
“I think, more importantly than what the B-1 aircraft brings … are the men and women of the 34th Bomb Squadron and the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, who are bringing years and years of recent combat experience from [U.S.] Central Command,” Spanier said. “Our squadron, specifically, is bringing more than 40,000 cumulative combat hours to the Pacific.”
Spanier added the Air Force has not seen bombers bring that amount of combat experience to the Pacific in more than a decade, and believes it will assist in the training of new Airmen.
“We will be able to practice and train in every mission setting that the B-1 is capable of,” Spanier said. “Aircraft and aircrews will be flying maritime missions, working with the Navy, flying close air support [training sorties] with the land forces of our allies, and conducting exercises like combat rescue.”
Airman 1st Class Blake Gutierrez, an aircraft armament technician assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said that he is looking forward to the training aspects of his first deployment.
“My fellow Airmen are definitely excited,” Gutierrez said. “It is going to be a different and strenuous workload, but I’m looking forward to learning in a new environment.”
This deployment is the largest Ellsworth has supported in recent years, requiring many units and personnel from across the base to work together to ensure a successful departure.
“It has been a wing-wide effort,” said Master Sgt. Shawn Compton, the superintendent of plans and integration with the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We have had dozens of augmentees [across] the base help us process cargo and personnel.”
Spanier added that although this is a very complex deployment that has occurred across many weeks with multiple airliners bringing Airmen and material to Guam, he believes the 34th EBS is well prepared to accomplish their mission.
“We are helping our allies by strengthening our ties with them,” Compton said. “We are also training with them and projecting our air power [in Guam] while reassuring [our allies] that we are committed to that region of the world.”