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Fortresses forged with steel and unity; 23 EBS bids farewell to Andersen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
"The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action," a quote from an article written in November 2011 by Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, regarding the importance of a strong U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Secretary Clinton's lines are resonant of the importance of the Continuous Bomber Presence that Andersen has been hosting since 2003, according to Capt. Jarred Prier, 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron mission planning cell team chief.

As part of the CPB, the 23 EBS from Minot AFB, N.D., have been training in Guam since December of 2011 and will be relieved by 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, also from Minot AFB. The swap-out ceremony was held on March 22.

"The CPB's mission is to assure our allies in the region that there is a strong U.S. military presence in the Pacific and to deter any potential adversaries," said Captain Prier.

The CBP is also an ongoing effort by the Pacific Air Force to show the United States' commitment to the security and stability of the entire Asia-Pacific region. The 23 EBS is one of the squadrons that rotate in and out, and provides the area with a rapidly deployable contingency response force.

Since the 23 EBS inception, it has participated in almost every major conflict the U.S. has been involved in.

"The B-52 Stratofortress has served as the 'Big Stick' in the fight, so to speak, for most of the conflicts the United States has been involved in, and we will be a player in a 'night-one' scenario in most future conflicts," said Captain Prier. "It can carry a variety of weapons, and can fly for long periods at a time. With aerial refueling, the B-52 can fly a continuous 24-hour mission, or longer."

"We also have the capability to loiter," continued Captain Prier. "We can fly to the location, remain within the area, and wait for the perfect opportunity to execute the plan. We have the reach and the power."

With its numerous capabilities, it is no surprise that the B-52 is a maintenance intensive aircraft.

"It takes a lot of man-hours to regenerate this aircraft and get it off the ground. It's an older aircraft; it's a legacy aircraft," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Crabtree, 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Superintendent.

"They've tried to replace it with the B-1s and the B-2s, but it didn't happen," he continued. "It can hold a lot of bombs. It's a proven platform. It's irreplaceable."

Trusting that their maintenance team will have the aircraft mission-ready, the flyers are able to focus on the specific missions and exercises that they were scheduled to execute while in Guam.

"Here in the island, the crew members are able to spend more time studying tactics, techniques, and procedures," said Captain Prier. "We are then able to hone our skills on our training sorties."

Through all the missions, the maintenance group worked tirelessly to make sure the fleet was in good condition.

"We fixed 426 pilot-reported discrepancies," said Chief Crabtree. "We take care of everything. At one point, we had several broken aircraft and our MC (mission capable) rate was down to 16 percent, but within 24 hours, we were able to get the fleet's MC rate back up to 83 percent."

With the cooperation between the flyers and their maintenance group during their deployment, the 23 EBS participated in multiple exercises successfully. The squadron flew 1200 flight hours and 186 sorties, according to Chief Crabtree.

"We had two aircraft fly over the Linebacker II ceremony," said the Chief. "We also did a fly over at a Singapore air show, which was the first one ever."

"Cope North was a huge one for us because we got to interact with different nations," he continued. "There were seven or eight different airframes. We did a swap. Their maintainers came and launched out B-52s, and our Airmen got to launch their fighters."

Aside from the training they have accomplished, the members of the 23 EBS also accumulated a total of over a thousand hours of community service; each person contributing, at least, 15 hours of their free time to the community.

"I like running, so I participated in the Guam Running Club," said Captain Prier. "The club holds races almost every week, and several of the races' proceeds go to charity. I also volunteered for the Guam Animals In Need Shelter. There were a lot of volunteer opportunities available to us."

The 23 EBS, who came in with six aircraft and nine crews, take pride in their leadership and their team unity.

"We have a great commander," said Chief Crabtree. "The 23 EBS commander, Lt. Col. Billings, makes sure to acknowledge everyone's hard work, including the maintenance team, and recognizes everyone's achievements."

"Considering that our team came from Minot, a small, close community, we've always had a tight team," said Captain Prier. "Living together as a unit during a deployment just makes our team more cohesive, and ultimately, more effective in executing our missions."