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Missouri Air Guard wing earns top honors at Global Strike Challenge

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo -- The classic association of Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing and the United States Air Force's 509th Bomb Wing won the Fairchild Trophy, the top honor at the Global Strike Challenge, for the best bomb wing.

The integrated wings received this prestigious honor in recognition of technical and weapons system expertise combined across several categories.

"This competition demonstrated the level of expertise the Guard brings to this now award-winning classic association of the 131st and the 509th Bomb Wings," said Col. Greg Champagne, 131st Bomb Wing commander.

The integrated 131st and 509th Bomb Wings competed against more than 400 Airmen from five other Air Force Global Strike Command wings, units from Air Combat Command and the Air Force Reserve.

The Whiteman bomb wings have been training side by side to prepare themselves for this competition which began in April.

"We were very excited to know that we contributed to the overall effort of the base to win the Fairchild Trophy," said Master Sgt. Dan Bates, an aircraft ordnance systems mechanic and team chief for the 131st Bomb Wing's conventional weapons load team that took first place.

All members of the winning load team have been with the unit collectively for over 35 years, but just completed bomb wing ordnance training in June of 2009 when the unit moved to Whiteman from St. Louis.

The all Missouri Air Guard team was made up of Bates, Master Sgt. Chris McFatridge, Tech. Sgt. Matt Mullins and Senior Airman Matt Jones.

"I think the most difficult part of the competition was not knowing what to expect throughout the process," said Mullins. "All of this was new to us, but our ability to adapt and overcome helped us achieve our goal."

"I don't know about the rest of the team, but as for myself, it was a huge shock considering the amount of experience with the new air frame that we have," McFatridge said about the Guard team's achievement. "Most of us have just two years or less of experience on the B-2."

"We were really happy when we found out we had won the competition," Mullins said about the weapons load competition. "It was nice to finally see all of our effort and hard work pays off, knowing that we are doing our part, and doing it well, is a really good feeling."

In addition to the load team, three 131st Bomb Wing members, Tech. Sgt John Burkhart, Tech. Sgt. Matt Biernbaum and Airman 1st Class Jared Acklie, formed an integrated eight-man munitions team with their 509th Bomb Wing counterparts.

Also supporting the 509th Bomb Wing in the competition were two 131st pilots, Maj. Dave Thompson and Maj. Jen Avery.

"Overall this shows that the ever-increasing integration of the two wings is providing enhanced war-fighting capability usable in both peacetime and wartime operations," said Champagne.

The Global Strike Challenge is now scheduled to be an annual occurrence geared to showcase the new command's capabilities as well as strengthening public support