9/12/2006 - LAMBERT AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, St. Louis (AFPN) -- Missouri Air National Guard Airmen got a peek at a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber when it visited the 131st Fighter Wing here Sept. 9.
Col. Greg Biscone, 509th Bomb Wing commander, piloted the B-2 from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to St. Louis. It gave the Missouri Guardsmen an opportunity to see the aircraft up-close before the Missouri ANG and active duty units pair up as a B-2 unit at Whiteman AFB.
Earlier this year, the Department of Defense announced the Missouri Air National Guard will assume its role with the B-2. Since that time, planners from the two units, Air Combat Command and the National Guard Bureau have been coordinating the details of the association, which will integrate many of the Missouri ANG's staff into operations at Whiteman.
"We're too early in the planning stages to know when this transition will happen or how many people will move to Whiteman and how many will remain here in St. Louis," said Col. Robert Leeker, 131st Fighter Wing commander. "But, we have developed an outstanding relationship with the 509th and are working in concert to ensure we develop the right mission concept for our Airmen and our nation."
"We will work together; we will deploy together," Colonel Biscone said. "We look forward to this association and full integration."
Colonel Biscone said one of the biggest benefits of teaming up with the National Guard is the experience and continuity guardsmen bring to the fight. In fact, most guardsmen serve in one unit, often in one job field, for most of their military careers.
"The long-term experience and consistency guardsmen will bring to the B-2 mission will enhance our capability," he said.
"But I don't want the Guard to lose its identity," Colonel Biscone said. "We know guardsmen can be called away from their primary missions to support state emergency duties. We will make sure that you can continue to do that."
Only a portion of the nearly 1,100 guardsmen assigned to the 131st FW are expected to move to Whiteman AFB. According to 131st FW officials, staff assigned to operations, maintenance and support positions will relocate across the state, keeping most of the combat support positions, which include specialties like finance, human resources, civil engineering and supply, in St. Louis.
"The 131st Fighter Wing will not be closing; we will be transitioning and transforming," Colonel Leeker said. "It's essential for our community and our personnel to understand this transformation is necessary for us to remain relevant."
Whiteman AFB is the only operational base for the B-2 stealth bomber, which demonstrated its long-range capability by flying from Missouri to Afghanistan and back in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.