A B-52 Stratofortress from the 40th Air Expeditionary Group
dropped three joint-direct attack munitions recently on a cave of
anti-coalition forces in Afghanistan, killing two and leading to
the capture of 10 others by coalition ground forces.
The mission was one of 22 close-air support and armed
reconnaissance sorties flown that day by coalition aircraft.
Supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-52 was providing
close-air support in the Oruzgan Province. Coalition troops came
under small arms fire, and the B-52 responded, officials said.
“It felt really good when we heard that the bomb hit the
cave dead on and closed all three entrances,” said the
mission lead about the sortie that dropped the munitions.
He also said it took every bit of experience and training on the
part of the crew.
“We were swapping information with a combined team of
maintenance, weapons and operations experts at this
forward-operating location,” the lieutenant colonel said.
“We were also talking with Army and Air Force ground troops
who were giving us targeting information. Thanks to the efforts of
a team spread across 3,000 miles, we put bombs on
For one young Airman
deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., it was his first
experience of seeing a bomber return after dropping live munitions,
and one he said he will never forget. He has been in the Air Force
“I didn’t actually believe it until I saw it,”
said Airman 1st Class Marcus Thames, a weapons loader on his first
deployment with the 40th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron at a
forward-deployed location. “When you see that plane with
empty (weapons) racks, you know you completed your mission.
“My supervisor always said it’s a great feeling, and
it was for me,” he said. “I felt that we actually
helped our boys in Afghanistan.”
Master Sgt. James Klimpel, the weapons section superintendent,
said the job at home station is all about training. The most
intensive training takes place once a month in the load barn for
every load crew at home station. They load each munition that they
are certified on under the watchful eye of weapons standardization
“It’s all timed,” said Sergeant Klimpel, also
from Minot. “If they don’t do it within the allotted
time, they fail.”
Airman Thames said all that training certainly pays off when it
“This is my first time for everything, particularly
actually loading live weapons,” he said. “I did all
that training at Minot, but this is the real deal.”
Besides the mission that took out the cave, a second B-52 and
several Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided close-air support
to coalition troops the same day in the vicinities of Bagram and
Kandahar without using weapons.
The mission lead on the cave sortie said he feels strongly that
the mission here is more than dropping bombs, it is to support the
warfighter in ways never imagined.
“Sometimes the desired effect involves lethal kinetic
firepower -- bombs on target,” he said. “Other times,
the desired effect may simply be to deter enemy action by making it
clear there’s a fully loaded B-52 ready, willing and able to
deliver weapons in a matter of minutes.”
While it may be easier to measure the immediate, tangible
effects of a bomb on a target than to measure how many mortar
rounds were not fired at coalition ground forces because a B-52 was
flying overhead, chance encounters with guys on the ground paint
the picture all too well.
“A bomber pilot recently struck up a conversation with a
young Army Special Forces Soldier while waiting for airlift,”
the lieutenant colonel said. “When the Soldier learned his
companion was a bomber pilot who had flown over him in country, his
eyes welled up as he shook the pilot’s hand, saying,
‘You may not know it or understand, but when you are
overhead, the bad guys don’t shoot at me and my
That, too, is mission accomplished. [ANN Salutes Master Sgt.
Rich Romero, 40th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs]