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B-52s strike Iraqi targets

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Capt. Jason, a B-52 pilot, checks his ejection seat and gets ready for a mission March 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Capt. Jason, a B-52 pilot, checks his ejection seat and gets ready for a mission March 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Daniel Murdock, weapons loader, prepares a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition.  Aircraft and people are deployed to this forward-deployed air base as part of the 457th Air Expeditionary Group.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Senior Airman Daniel Murdock, weapons loader, prepares a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Aircraft and people are deployed to this forward-deployed air base as part of the 457th Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Airman 1st Class Dino Dan, weapons loader, uses an MHU-83 lift truck to load a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition onto the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Airman 1st Class Dino Dan, weapons loader, uses an MHU-83 lift truck to load a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition onto the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- B-52 Stratofortress bombers taxi toward takeoff for Operation Iraqi Freedom bombing missions.  The B-52s are operating from a forward- deployed air base.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor.)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- B-52 Stratofortress bombers taxi toward takeoff for Operation Iraqi Freedom bombing missions. The B-52s are operating from a forward- deployed air base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor.)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Bomber aircraft from this deployed location participated in their first strike operations March 21 and continue to pound targets in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations in a coalition effort to disarm the Iraqi regime.

All of the bombers deployed for the mission returned without incident. B-52 Stratofortresses struck targets across Iraq.

KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders from across the U.S. European and Central Command theaters of operations provided the needed fuel to the bombers.

As aircrews taxied from this location and took to the air, they held small American flags out the window. Maintenance, supply and other airmen pumped their firsts and waved as the 159-foot bombers rolled by.

As a B-52 nicknamed Iron Butterfly lifted off the runway here on its way to Iraq, Senior Airman Dustin Karas, one of the crew chiefs for that bomber, pumped his fist and announced his excitement over the roar of the engines.

"There's no better feeling!" he said following more than three hours of pre-flight checks. "It's unbelievable!"

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