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Airman plays big role in B-2 legacy

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN) -- He is Whiteman 7. He is Spirit 36. He is “GQ.” He is the first Whiteman-trained B-2 Spirit instructor pilot. And now, he is the project officer for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Spirit of Missouri’s arrival here Dec. 17.

Col. Scott Land, 509th Operations Group deputy commander, who has been assigned here three times during the last 10 years, has been a part of the B-2 program from its infancy.

“I didn’t expect to be a part of this program, because initially when the Air Force was looking at it, they said specifically that they wanted pilots with navigator experience, and so I didn’t consider myself to be eligible,” Land said. “But obviously, God had a plan and brought me into this program.”

Land, who was commissioned at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1981, began his flying career as an instructor pilot in the T-38 Talon and the B-1 Lancer. He was selected by both Strategic Air Command and Air Combat Command officials in the early 1990s to be in the first B-2 training class.

“I’m Spirit 36, which means that in all the world, I was the 36th person to fly the B-2,” he said.

Everyone who flies the B-2 receives a Spirit number, Land said. There is also a Whiteman number assigned to people who are flying as part of the 509th Bomb Wing.

Today, the lists stand at Whiteman 193 and Spirit 309.

Land was also the first B-2 instructor pilot to receive all his training here.

“When we (in the original class) were designated into the program, we all got orders to Whiteman, but they spread us out, and I was the first one to get here,” Land said.

During his first assignment here from 1993 to 1997, Land served as a B-2 flight commander for the 393rd Bomb Squadron. He became the assistant operations officer and operations officer before moving on to a position at the Pentagon.

Land returned to Whiteman in 1999, was requalified in the B-2 and took command of the 394th Combat Training Squadron.

Land left in 2001 to attend Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and returned during the summer of 2002 to serve in his current position. But for all his time with the Air Force, the 509th BW and the B-2, Land had not seen combat until Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It was frustrating for me not to be a part of what the Air Force was doing when it came to combat,” Land said. “It’s not that I look forward to combat, but if the nation is at war, I want to be part of the team flying combat operations.”

Land was part of the first wing team to fly combat missions from a forward-deployed location, and he said his memories of that experience are some of the best of his career.

“Every time a B-2 taxied out (at the deployed location), there were 150 to 200 509ers lined up on the ramp, watching it and saluting the airplane. And every single time a B-2 landed after a combat mission, there were 150 to 200 people out there,” Land said. “They were there to see the pilots off, and they were there to greet the pilots when they came back, because they knew they were part of the team. I will never forget that esprit de corps.”

Since returning from the deployment, Land said he has been focused on organizing the 10th anniversary celebration.

He volunteered to be the project officer for the event when he realized he was one of only a few people who were here for the first delivery. But Land said the celebration is not just about the B-2, it’s also about the 509th BW team.

“I would like the members of the 509th to understand that everything that has happened to the B-2 in the last 10 years has happened because of their efforts, their dedication, their innovation and their willingness to do whatever it takes to make the mission work,” he said. “But what’s more important is the future.

As for Land’s future, he said he will go wherever the Air Force wants him to go, but feels privileged to have been at Whiteman as long as he has.

“To be a part of (the B-2 program) for the duration means that this weapon system and this community, the B-2 community, will always be extremely near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I just hope that I can always be a part of the B-2 legacy.”

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