MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D., –
Airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing’s 69th Bomb Squadron, 5th Maintenance Group, and 5th Mission Support Group returned to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, from their deployment to Andersen AFB, Guam, April 20, 2020, where they supported U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
The 69th BS completed a nine-month CBP mission in support of U.S. interests and those of America’s allies, the longest deployment of its kind in Air Force Global Strike Command’s history. Strategic bombers have routinely trained, operated and conducted exercises with partner nations throughout the USINDOPACOM theater of operations.
“I could not be more proud of the Warbird men and women, and especially the families that supported them during these back to back, incredibly successful, record breaking deployments. It’s great to have the whole team back home after 15 months in the Pacific,” said Col. Brad Cochran, 5th BW commander.
For the past 15 months, Airmen from the 5th BW have maintained B-52H Stratofortress bombers and flown a total of 6,100 hours in four different geographic areas of responsibility. While doing so, they also worked with 10 allied nations in the Indo-Pacific region, strengthening regional partnerships and military interoperability.
“The 69th Bomb Squadron and its aircraft maintenance unit executed 352 Continuous Bomber Presence sorties in support of United States INDOPACOM objectives. They flew over 2,000 flight hours and delivered $2 million in high explosives, precision-guided munitions, and sea mines,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Zabka, 69th BS commander.
The 69th BS practiced maritime strike tactics, performed search and rescue missions, integrated with fifth generation fighter aircraft launched off of aircraft carriers, and achieved dynamic force employment objectives from three different operating locations.
“I’m grateful for the patience and support of our families back home,” said Zabka. “They could probably write a book on resiliency right now. Not only did they support the longest B-52 deployment since Vietnam, but they did it over the winter in Minot, North Dakota, and finished it off during a health pandemic.”
The return of Air Force units from deployments are customarily large gatherings with loved ones eagerly waiting near the flightline with large signs to match their joyful smiles, however, this type of gathering isn’t possible during on-going precautions in an COVID-19 environment. Thankfully, there was no stopping the joy of reunited families for this return, as they waited in their cars as their returning Airmen received their “Welcome Home”
This reunion was unique with leadership and families wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as they celebrated a physical distance that is no longer thousands of miles.
Airmen returning from Guam were placed in “Restriction of Movement” upon their return as a precautionary measure. Members will be restricted to their homes and dorms for 14 days to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, in the event the returning service member is carrying the illness asymptomatically.
The 5th BW leadership team is proud of the accomplishments and sacrifices of these Airmen and their families, and are happy to have their Global Strikers back home.