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B-52 squadrons set to swap out at Andersen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephen Teel
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen and B-52 Stratofortress bombers assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron returned home to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 2 through 5 after completing a four-month Air and Space Expeditionary Force deployment here.

B-52s, along with aircrew, support and maintenance personnel, from the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., will replace the Louisiana-based Airmen. The Airmen from Minot will arrive here during the same period and form the 23rd EBS as part of a scheduled AEF rotation.

Pacific Air Forces has kept a continuous bomber presence at Andersen since March 2004 as the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts its force posture to maintain a prudent deterrent capability.

Andersen is an ideal main operating base for sustaining and projecting airpower in support of America's defense strategy, according to Col. Damian McCarthy, 36th Operations Group commander.

"It is strategically located, has an impressive fuel and munitions storage capability, has exceptional Airmen and civilian employees, and enjoys strong community support," Colonel McCarthy said.

Maj. Nicholas Russo, 20th EBS director of operations, said the support Andersen provided helped the bomb squadron achieve their AEF goals.

"We flew 182 U.S. Pacific Command operation missions totaling more than 1,300 hours," Major Russo said. "We planned and executed 14 higher headquarter-directed missions including 59 sorties over three continents, with seven allied nations; and our squadron integrated with joint and multinational assets including F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15C Eagles, F-22 Raptors, and P-3 Orions.

"We also used combined air operation centers and joint terminal attack controllers in multiple roles, from airborne interdiction of maritime targets to close air support," the major added.

Support from the base and community was crucial in helping the 20th EBS Airmen overcome the tragedy one of their squadron's B-52s crashing north of Guam in July, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Hesterman, 20th EBS commander. That local support, along with the squadron's perseverance, allowed his Airmen to continue with their mission and successfully complete it.

"The 20th EBS Airmen did an exceptional job here at Andersen, and the support from the base and community was a key for us to maintain momentum, especially with the tragedy [of losing the B-52 and its aircrew]," Colonel Hesterman said.

As a result of the accident, flying operations stood down for six days to assist in the search, rescue and recovery efforts. Even in a time of loss, the squadron was able to continue its mission due to the support it received from the base and community, Colonel Hesterman said.

"The following Monday, the squadron resumed flying with our heads held high, to honor our lost brothers who would have wanted us to continue our mission," Colonel Hesterman said.

As the 20th EBS heads home, the deployed Airmen of the 23rd EBS will take to the skies to demonstrate their global reach and power from Guam for the next four months during their rotation here.

"Andersen is committed to the mission, and we will ensure we continue to promote stability and security in the Western Pacific region," Colonel McCarthy said. "We welcome the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron to Andersen and have confidence the squadron will continue to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region."

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