To those outside the flightline observing Bomber Task Force missions from the ground, the procedures appear simple. The aircraft take off, the aircraft return for landing a few hours later, and then they do it again.
What happens on the flightline between landings and take offs, however, is anything but simple. Teams of highly-skilled aircraft maintainers work tirelessly around the clock to ensure the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron’s B-52H Stratofortresses can safely and reliably meet mission requirements.
“We’re responsible for ensuring the aircraft are primed for their taskings,” explained Master Sgt. Luke Gilmore, 23rd Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. “While on deployment, it is challenging to know what comes next at times, therefore flexibility is the key to our success.”
Approximately 150 Airmen assigned to the 5th Maintenance Group at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, including avionics specialists, crew chiefs, and aerospace ground equipment specialists, accompanied the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron on their most recent Bomber Task Force deployment to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The maintenance team is responsible for nose to tail care of four B-52Hs for the duration of the BTF deployment, performing extremely technical, high-stakes tasks every day and every night.
“We brought about 98 tons of aerospace ground equipment and supply parts with us on this deployment,” said Capt. Dylon Schwahn, 23rd EAMU officer in charge. “We have all the Airmen and equipment we need to keep the jets flying. When packing, we built in a few extra pieces of AGE and some flyaway parts kits to ensure we are able to forward deploy if necessary and continue to get the job done wherever we’re needed.”
U.S. Strategic Command’s BTF operations ensure the command can provide decisive response against any threat when called upon by national leadership. The practical experience gained during BTF deployments enhances the combat-ready 5th MXG, ensuring its Airmen are ready to support a response to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe.
“BTF missions like this enhance our teamwork, give us a better understanding of our true mission, and validate that we can perform our jobs anywhere,” said Gilmore. “Anywhere the Air Force needs the jets to go, we can go too.”
What happens on the flight line between landings and take offs is anything but simple, the aircraft maintenance Airmen supporting the BTF just make it look that way.