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News > Deployed U-2 pilot achieves rare feat of 100 combat missions
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 "It's the best flying job in the world as far as I'm concerned."
 "To see the worldwide effort that is required to exploit what we're collecting on the airplane, and then to get it back to a guy on the ground literally minutes after its intercepted is amazing to me."
 
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Deployed U-2 pilot achieves rare feat of 100 combat missions
Maj. William Gottenberg, U-2 pilot with the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, greets with people after completing his 100th combat mission in the U-2 from a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia on March 9, 2010. Major Gottenberg is deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and his hometown is Rocklin, Calif. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol/Released)
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Deployed U-2 pilot achieves rare feat of 100 combat missions

Posted 3/15/2010   Updated 3/15/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


3/15/2010 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- For Maj. William Gottenberg, he's been helping the Dragon Lady breathe a lot of fire lately. The 16-and-a-half-year Air Force veteran and pilot recently achieved 100 combat missions in the U-2 in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

"It's a good feeling because it's an awesome mission and the fact that I was able to have the opportunity to come out here enough to get the chance to get 100 is great," said Major Gottenberg, a U-2 pilot with the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. "It's the best flying job in the world as far as I'm concerned."

Major Gottenberg joined the Air Force as new lieutenant in 1983. He stayed on until the Persian Gulf War in 1991, then left flying his RC-135 aircraft in the military to flying Boeing 747s for a civilian airline.

"After what happened on Sept. 11 (2001), I decided to volunteer to come back on active duty," said Major Gottenberg, who is deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. "I was accepted back on active duty about a year after Sept. 11. I came back to the RC-135, flew that for three more years, and then came to U-2 and that's what I've been flying ever since."

Lt. Col. Kirt Stallings, 99th ERS commander who is also deployed from Beale AFB, said the major's accomplishment is just that - "a major accomplishment."

"One hundred sorties in the U-2 is a big deal," Colonel Stallings said to Major Gottenberg and a gathering of people immediately after the major completed his mission March 9. "A thanks from me and from everybody for your contributions not only from our aspect of the war, but also for the effort supporting the men and women downrange. You have done a lion's share of work here so thanks very much for everything you have done."

When he stepped down from the U-2 after his 100th combat mission, Major Gottenberg said he wasn't expecting all the people who waited to greet and congratulate him because to him it was just another mission in the sense that "it's about the people he's helping on the ground."

Also, when he's flying at 70,000 feet on a combat mission looking at the curvature of the Earth, he's not lost in thought but rather tightly focused on the mission of the day. When he's "on station" at his target location, he said the focus becomes even more intense.

"Well, to be honest, the time flying goes by really quickly once I get on station and we start doing the job the U-2 does," said Major Gottenberg, whose hometown is Rocklin, Calif. "I think the most impressive thing to me is the fact that the airplane transforms itself from a really neat flying machine into a lethal weapons system. On a combat mission, we'll spend our whole time directly interacting with guys on the ground providing them with actionable, near real-time intelligence they use to go out and hunt bad guys with."

According to its Air Force fact sheet, the U-2 provides high-altitude, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance, day or night, in direct support of U.S. and allied forces. It delivers critical imagery and signals intelligence to decision makers throughout all phases of conflict, including peacetime indications and warnings, low-intensity conflict and large-scale hostilities. The plane is a single-seat, single-engine aircraft that, essentially, show it's the "eyes and ears" of the war.

"Well the awesome thing is that the U-2 is more in demand now than it was in its almost 55-year history," Major Gottenberg said. "The airplane, as a weapons system, has evolved into this amazing thing. What's impressive to me is to be a part of it and to watch the effort that is required to prepare the airplane -- from the maintainer and life support standpoint - to get it ready to fly as consistently as it does.

"To see the worldwide effort that is required to exploit what we're collecting on the airplane, and then to get it back to a guy on the ground literally minutes after its intercepted is amazing to me," the major said. "In the last three to four years, the plane has revolutionized itself in how we employ it. I like to think that effort will continue if we are given the opportunity to keep flying the airplane. It's a system that takes a worldwide effort to make it happen and the guys on the ground, I know, love having us out there. That's an added benefit to a very rewarding job."

The 99th ERS is an attached unit of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. In addition to the U-2 Dragon Lady, the wing is home to the KC-10 Extender, U-2 Dragonlady and RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft. The wing is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. The wing supports operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.



tabComments
3/18/2010 8:06:39 AM ET
I flew the Dragon Lady in the 80's and it's great to see how she continues to soldier on in the current conficts. God Bless all the men and women who keep her flying and the pilots who every day go into harm's way. Wish I was 10 years younger so I could go back on active duty and join them. Jim Roberts LtCol USAF Ret.
Jim Roberts, Knoxville TN
 
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