WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) --
The Air National Guard celebrated a historic milestone this week as the 131st Bomb Wing, the nation’s only Guard unit to fly and maintain the B-2 Spirit, was certified to conduct the nuclear mission upon completion of their initial nuclear surety inspection.
With this certification, the 131st BW reached full operational capability with the B-2, bringing to conclusion a six-year journey that began with the unit’s transition from the F-15 Eagle mission in 2007, said Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, the adjutant general of Missouri.
“The Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing have proven they are up to the task in carrying out this critical national security mission,” Danner said. “This confirmation is the result of years of hard work and the commencement of a new chapter in Air National Guard history. The 131st Bomb Wing is officially open for business -- Col. Michael Francis and his team should be proud.”
This momentous event marks the first time in the history of the Guard that a bomb wing has been certified in the delivery of nuclear weapons.
“The 131st Citizen Airmen have proven they can exceed every stringent challenge posed in the nuclear realm,” said Francis, the 131st Bomb Wing commander. “Their countless hours have deservingly evolved in to this success and I couldn’t be more proud.”
The four-day inspection consisted of assessments in key areas, and graded the wing's ability to be caretakers of an unrivaled combat power.
“The result of the inspection validates the wing’s ability to carry out the nuclear mission, which requires adherence to the strictest standards,” said Henry Jenkins, the Air Force Global Strike Command inspector general team chief.
As part of the Air Force’s Total Force Integration initiative to combine active-duty with Guard Airmen, the two wings were integrated in 2007 when the 131st BW received its new operational mission. The unit became a classic associate with the active duty’s 509th Bomb Wing, enabling the 131st BW to become the first Guard unit to fly the B-2.
The integration efforts began seven years ago on Feb. 27, 2006, when the secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff of the Air Force approved Total Force Initiative Phase II, which directed the creation of a classic association with the 509th BW and the 131st BW.
In 2008, the wing had fewer than 60 members stationed at Whiteman AFB, when they conducted the first all-Guard B-2 sortie, which included both the launch and operation of the aircraft. Today, nearly all 800 members are based at Whiteman AFB, with completely integrated maintenance crews and almost three times the number of qualified pilots.
"The Airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing are physically and functionally integrated at every level," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, the 509th Bomb Wing commander. "When you walk on the flightline at Whiteman AFB, you can't tell the difference between an active-duty or Guard pilot, maintainer, or load crew team. This certification was the last remaining event to align our mission capabilities and we are honored to be defending this great nation with the warriors of the Missouri Air National Guard."
The first combat total force integration mission the wings conducted came in March 2011, when three B-2s flew over Libya, dropping 45 joint direct attack munitions to destroy hardened aircraft shelters, crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s air forces and helping enforce the United Nations’ no-fly zone.
The six aircrew members who flew that mission included both active duty and Guard pilots, demonstrating success in the first real-world combat mission the B-2 conducted since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
“Our certification is a culmination of years of long hours and concentrated effort coupled with each Airman’s determination to go above and beyond every day,” said Chief Master Sgt. Paul Carney, the 131st Bomb Wing command chief. “It was no easy feat logistically to move the wing and take on a new mission, especially one as demanding as the no-fail nuclear mission … but we did it.”