Big Day for Missouri Air Guard

Airmen of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing (formerly the 131st Fighter Wing) performed their first solo B-2 sortie on June 18, according to a June 23 release. Air Guard crew chiefs launched the aircraft flown by Air Guard pilots in the first all-ANG mission under a new classic associate arrangement between the 131st BW and the active duty 509th BW at Whiteman AFB, Mo. BRAC 2005 directed the demise of the 131st’s fighter mission, and in 2006, USAF decided to pair the Air Guardsmen with the Whiteman B-2 bomber force. (The Air Guard hasn’t flown bombers since 2001 when the Air Force reorganized its B-1B force, eliminating the two ANG bomb wings.) In 2007, the 131st tapped a former active B-2 pilot, Maj. David Thompson, to help lead the transition effort. Thompson, who was one of the pilots on the historic June 18 sortie, said the sortie was “a culmination of years of work,” and added, “There are hundreds of people behind the scenes in the 131st and the Missouri Guard making this transition happen.” The June 18 mission commander and 131st vice commander, Col. Gregory Champagne, noted that the transition is “a two-and-a-half-year process and we are … right on time, everything is going well.” The two ANG aircraft maintainers who launched the flight were MSgt. Bob Francis and TSgt. John Venable. The Air Guardsmen have been working and flying with their active counterparts at Whiteman for the past year, and typically, said Champagne, mission execution is a Total Force effort. “We fly together; it is seamless; we train the same; we are the same, and our goal is the same, which is the success of the mission.” Currently, the 131st has seven pilots qualified for the B-2 and expects to have 25 pilots and nearly 500 maintenance, operations, and support staff at Whiteman. (509th BW report by SrA. Dilia Ayala)