Farewell B-1: The B-1B Lancer sets rotational records before leaving AOR

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Terrica Y. Jones
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The B-1B Lancer is scheduled to leave Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar mid-January for a six-month hiatus, to receive aircraft modifications stateside, but before its departure, it achieved some rotational milestones.

The B-1B Lancer has been under the operational support of the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and has set records during the July-January rotation with military members deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

“This rotation has supported a total of 490 sorties and enabled 4,850 bombs to be dropped in six months,” said Capt. Abraham “Abe” Smith, 379 EAMXS officer in charge. “When the B-1 leaves this will be the first time since 2006 we won’t have B1s in the area of responsibility.”

“Our mission has been to provide safe and reliable combat aircraft to the bomb squadron,” Smith said. “We’ve supported more bombs dropped in one month than any other B-1 unit.”

The previous B-1B Lancer unit dropped 1,068 bombs in a one-month period, while our unit dropped 2,224 bombs, which doubled the previous unit’s record, he added.

Accomplishments of this magnitude do not come easy and being able to maintain such a high operational tempo does not come without challenges.

“Hundreds of thousands of manpower hours have been put into the past six months to keep these aircraft running and it’s been a very challenging and an exhausting deployment; however, we’ve found ways to make it enjoyable,” said Smith.

Smith also said that getting parts for the aircraft is a big challenge because of the age of the airplane, but he went on to say that nothing is more satisfying than when they overcome the challenges and fix it.  He also said that being able to get the aircraft turned around and back in the fight in a timely manner brings a lot of satisfaction to the team.

“We try to be prepared for the unexpected, but we can never predict what is going to go wrong on the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Daryl Ackerman, 379 EAMXS crew chief.  “However, we combine our knowledge and resources to make sure the aircraft get fixed.”

“Some challenges we faced were the weather, trying to encourage the new airmen to stay positive, making sure they pay attention to detail, and staying focused,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Kwawegen, 379 EAMXS lead crew team chief.

Daily B-1 operations require teams of airmen to ensure the aircraft are mission ready.

“We train, certify and evaluate all the load crews,” said Kwawegen. “When we deploy as a unit we evaluate the load crews throughout the deployment, as well as load and do the maintenance to ensure everyone is loading safely and efficiently.”

“We make sure all the jets and their engines are nice and healthy to ensure the planes get off the ground,” said Senior Airman Dan Ando, 379 EAMXS aerospace propulsion technician. “We work a lot, but when you see the jets take off you know that it’s a direct correlation of the work you’ve put in; you get to see the fruits of your labor.”

Kwawegen said that the best part of the deployment for him, is knowing there were troops in contact that the B-1 has enabled to return home safely. Knowing that gives him a sense of pride.

“We protect the troops on the ground and without jet engine mechanics the plane would not be able to do its mission,” said Ando. “We directly put jets in the air that are able to save our troops on the ground.”

“It will be well missed. There is nothing that can do the mission that the B-1 does and it’s an amazing aircraft that flies at supersonic speed to go drop bombs and come back home,” said Smith. “To be able to have that sort of mission, it is unique and this has been an awesome experience to be out here and be a part of it,” said Smith.