Air National Guardsmen work seamlessly with active duty Air Force
By Rachel Knight
/ Published June 14, 2010
20100607 -- ANDERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - More than three months ago, the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman deployed with the active Air Force's 509th Bomb Wing to support B-2 Spirit missions in Guam.
This deployment is only the second time the Air Guard has deployed with the 509th Bomb Wing since the 131st Bomb Wing became a classic associate unit.
Chief Master Sgt. Mark D. Funk, aircraft maintenance unit chief, said the deployment has been seamless as both the 131st and the 509th have teamed up together to maintain, launch and recover four B-2 Spirit Bombers.
"When I have asked someone to do a task such as staying late to fix a bomber, washing a bomber or cleaning up the hangar, I see both active duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen jump in and work together to get the task done," Funk said. "Over the past few months, I have seen both 131st and 509th Airmen put a lot of time into meeting our operational commitments."
The Airmen from both organizations have been working together to pilot the B-2, prepare aircrew flight equipment, and maintain the aircraft.
One of the main focuses while on the deployment was to conduct long-duration exercises with the B-2.
Funk said 21 Air National Guard maintainers and operators are helping support a force of about 500 on the island. The Guard maintainers have been working in almost every aspect of the maintenance group to include crew chiefs, weapons, munitions, hydraulics, low observable, fuel systems, aerospace ground equipment, maintenance control and engine maintenance.
According to Funk, a great example of the seamless integration came when Staff Sgt. Casey Patrick, of the 131st Bomb Wing, was nominated by his active duty supervisor as the deployed noncommissioned officer of the month. His nomination was written by his active duty section lead, which also earned him the maintenance group deployed noncommissioned officer of the month as well as the 36th Wing deployed noncommissioned officer of the month.
During the time at Anderson Air Force Base, the deployed Airmen launched the longest B-2 training mission in the history of the program with a 35 plus hours flight with one of the bombers being launched by an all Air National Guard crew and flown by active duty pilots.
"As the senior enlisted member, I have seen both active duty and Air National Guard Airmen forge one team, both on and off duty," Funk said.
In many cases, the young Guardsmen started working in the B-2 and have been working with their active duty counterparts for almost three years.
The group has worked hard and set goals equivalent to last year's deployment. They have experienced several unusual maintenance hurdles such as the power take off shafts.
"They are similar to the F-15's power take off shafts, but they require inspections and have about a 50 percent fail rate on inspection," Funk said. "The B-2 teams, both on the island and at Whiteman, have worked hard to get us the parts that we need."
For two weeks, toward the end of their deployment, the Airmen worked around the clock to repair the bombers and get them airborne for six long duration missions. The following week they accomplished an hourly post flight inspection on a B-2 that required a borescope of the engines. That inspection alone can take up to 36 hours.
In 2005, the 131st - formerly a St. Louis-based fighter wing - changed designations to a bomb wing and moved to Whiteman as an Air National Guard classic associate unit on the B-2s at Whiteman Air Force Base.
The deployment was just a portion of the mission aimed towards achieving total force integration within the Air Force.
"Being asked to fill the chief enlisted position has been an honor," Funk said. "I am proud to have been able to see the great team work the two entities have formed since February."
The Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing arrive home Friday, June 4, to Whiteman Air Force Base because they have completed their portion of this deployed mission.
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.