Theodore's World: In Country With the B-1s of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron

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December 29, 2008

In Country With the B-1s of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron

Guarding the Guardians of Freedom

By Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin
379th Air Expeditionary Wing


Carrying the largest payload of any aircraft in the theater, the B-1s of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron patiently guard the guardians of freedom from high above Iraq and Afghanistan.

The squadron, which once took part in the famed Doolittle Raids on Tokyo, is now responsible for close air support, non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed over watch for troops supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

"We provide the kinetic firepower for any of the three operations in the theater," said Lt. Col. Kevin Kennedy, 34 EBS commander. "Right now we're primarily focused on OEF in Afghanistan. We provide a great deal of the firepower there."

The unit was one of the first to deploy to Afghanistan for OEF after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Now, in addition to the ability to lower the boom on the bad guys there, the aircraft of the 34 EBS feature Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods. The pod allows aircrews to detect and analyze targets on the ground through real-time imagery.

"Before we didn't have the television or infrared capability on the jet," said the colonel. "Now we have that technology. We can look at something on the ground with our targeting pod and the [joint terminal air controller] on the ground can also see it."

The unit's B-1s can also loiter for long periods over the AOR because of their fuel capacity, two pilots and two weapons systems officers on the aircrews.

"We have the ability to fly for a long period of time and the speed to move through the country fairly quickly," said Col. Kennedy.

The unit uses these capabilities on a daily basis. On a typical mission crews will fly for 12 hours, most of which is spent conducting armed over watch of troops on the ground or looking at requested areas of interest.

"If there happens to be a troops in contact situation, we'll check in with the JTAC who will bring us up to speed and if we need to deliver weapons we'll do that," said the colonel.

Col. Kennedy recalled one mission while here where the unit supported a convoy several times that had come under fire and had disabled vehicles.

"We got there and were able to help them find the enemy who was engaging them," he said. "The ground commander made the target decision, 'Yes, I want to target them.' We engaged them, dropped weapons on them and assessed how well we did. From that first engagement there was a follow-on engagement where the enemy went to get some additional weapons such as a recoilless rifle and moved to another location where a [rocket propelled grenade] team was trying to set up to take action against the Coalition convoys. That is the mission that stands out to me personally. It was our longest mission for which I have records."

One of the biggest challenges for 34 EBS aircrews is staying alert through the long sorties, according to Col. Kennedy.

"You have to be ready to execute at almost any minute," he said. "There are no rest periods while we're up there."

Because of the long missions, many of the unit's aircrew members have logged a large number of combat hours in the AOR. Capt. Jess Hamilton, the unit's chief of weapons and tactics, recently went over 1,000 combat hours in the aircraft.

"Doing the close air support mission is pretty rewarding for me," said the Sullivan, Ind., native. "There are guys on the ground getting shot at and you come in and handle that problem for them. Being an instructor pilot and the weapons officer for the squadron is also pretty rewarding. Teaching the new guys how we do business with close air support and then watching them go get the mission done is probably the most interesting part of my job."

Capt. Hamilton also had the distinction of dropping the first bomb from a B-1 equipped with the Sniper pod during a mission, Aug. 4. The 34 EBS is the first to use the pod on a B-1 in combat, which Colonel Kennedy called the biggest success of this rotation.

"I was out here last year and things have changed completely because of the sniper pod," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Schenewerk, non-commissioned officer in charge of intelligence for the 34 EBS, who also debriefed the crew after the first drop. "I was really proud to be a part of it because I knew that was a big capability we brought on line in six months. We got it in theater to the guys who need it - those on the ground."

Sgt. Schenewerk said the most interesting part of his job now is debriefing crew members after each mission.

"We sit down and watch the video and hear them talking to the guys on the ground," he said. "You can hear the gunfire coming in or going out. You can hear the guys needing support. That, to me, is by far the most interesting part of my job. Getting to see how things on the ground are actually going, not reading what is in the newspaper but actually witnessing it first-hand via the pod and the debrief."

Successful missions also encourage others who contribute to the unit's ability to guard the guardians of freedom.

"It's always fun to hear the crew members' stories when they get back," said Airman 1st Class Justin Monroe, a Richwood, Ohio, native who ensures crewmembers are current and qualified in all areas before each mission. "I feel I put a lot in toward helping with the war effort. I help put these guys in the air, and they drop the bombs."

About 300 people in several units at this Southwest Asian base contribute directly to the many successes the 34 EBS has had here. Some of its key partners include the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (which deployed with the 34 EBS from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.), the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, and the Combined Air and Space Operations Center. Each Airman knows that it takes teamwork to put bombs on target.

"This is what I signed up to do," said Sgt. Schenewerk. "I signed up after Sept. 11 to fight terrorism."

The Winston, Ore., native, said he loved supporting those guarding coalition ground forces.

"Being intelligence we're not the tip of the spear, but we're close enough to it that we get to feel some of the effects while they're out there employing that spear," he said. "We are doing what we're supposed to be doing and taking the fight to the enemy."

Posted by Wild Thing at December 29, 2008 01:47 AM


Anything that helps the boots on the ground has my support, too many times in the past that bird in the air had no way of knowing the true ground situation, this put the ground forces in dire circumstances and forced some poor helo pilot and crew to hang it all out under intense fire, in support and extraction missions. Now big brother can put some heavy suppression on them. ARC Light always impressed me on the ground, even miles away from the strike, now it can be done with surgical precision. Snap those enemy sphincters permanently shut 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

Posted by: Jack at December 29, 2008 05:01 AM

Just another part of the technology that helps our guys on the ground. I am always glad to hear the support peoples' enthusiasm and pride for their jobs. They strive for perfection and save lives.

Jimmy Carter tried to kill the B1 program. Maybe he should be dropped out of a B1 onto the Taliban.

Posted by: TomR at December 29, 2008 11:16 AM

Gee Tom, why use a perfectly good B1 when Carter could be hung from an oak tree by the very citizens he has betrayed.

Posted by: cuchieddie at December 29, 2008 04:43 PM

Jack, thank you for sharing that.

I love these things that help our troops and I love learning about them.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 29, 2008 05:13 PM

Tom, oh I wish!! Carter deserves that for sure.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 29, 2008 05:15 PM

cuchieddie, that works for me too.

Carter total traitor.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 29, 2008 05:20 PM