Meet the 131st Bomb Wing
By Capt. Daniel Ortwerth, 131st Bomb Wing
/ Published July 21, 2009
07/16/2009 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- October will mark the one year anniversary of activation of the 131st Air National Guard Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. This merge began as a part of the Total Force Integration initiative which has the Air Force finding new ways to bring together efforts of active-duty, Guard and Reserve forces to accomplish the mission. This concept presents a coalition between the 509th and the 131st Bomb Wings to enhance the mission of the B-2.
This coalition is both the beginning and end of an era. The 131st Fighter Wing transitioned from flying and maintaining the F-15C Eagle fighter to the B-2 Spirit bomber. The final flight of the F-15C Eagle by the 131st occurred in June from St. Louis's Lambert International Airport.
"We are succeeding in this association because we have made an all-in commitment to it. We are keenly aware of the positive mission impact the 131st is already making, and we have fully embraced the integration. This is what TFI is all about," said Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler, 509th Bomb Wing commander. "The objective of this merger is to bring the B-2 to a higher level of combat capability together with the 131st."
The 509th and the 131st are joining forces according to what is known as a "classic associate wing" structure. The active-duty wing, the 509th retains full "ownership" of the operational assets; aircraft, maintenance facilities, etc. Each wing will have its own chain- of- command and organizational structure, but the members of each unit will perform their duties in a fully integrated manner. Translation, active-duty and ANG pilots and maintainers will fly B-2 missions and sustain the aircraft as though it were one unit.
"It is an honor for us to have the opportunity to contribute to this extraordinary mission, which provides our country with such a distinctive capability," said Col. Robert Leeker, 131st BW commander. "But beyond that the opportunity to work alongside active-duty service members, with their tremendous breadth of backgrounds and experiences, has clearly enriched the 131st and broadened our perspective."
As the nation's eighth oldest ANG unit, the 131st BW brings a rich heritage of excellence in flight and a wealth of experience from decades of service to Team Whiteman. The 131st has already found opportunities to share important lessons with their active-duty brethren. However, with a weapons system as advanced and unique as the B-2, the learning curve has proven steep.
The success of the 131st BW at Whiteman hinges upon two factors: its impact on the B-2 mission and its long-term contribution to the TFI concept. . According to Colonel Leeker, updates on the progress of the 131st and milestones achieved will serve as a long-term foundation for this association and a guidepost for TFI as a whole. Although the 131st BW alliance with the 509th remains young, the initial indications clearly point in a positive direction for Team Whiteman.