Ellsworth welcomes Minot B-52s
By Senior Airman Zachary Hada, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 28, 2014
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The first contingent of B-52 Stratofortress bombers from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., began arriving on base March 26 - their temporary home until a scheduled runway reconstruction program is completed at their home station.
Approximately eight B-52s and about 300 Airmen from Minot will be on temporary duty at Ellsworth because of a much-needed runway reconstruction project at Minot.
"To perform the required maintenance on their runway, Minot needed to move their B-52 fleet," said Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander. "Operating out of Ellsworth makes good sense in that it was the most affordable option and we have a proven ability to host B-52 operations. Ellsworth was home to B-52 bombers for nearly 30 years before we transitioned to the B-1. Our infrastructure can accommodate the aircraft and our proximity to Minot is a further benefit when rotating personnel and equipment."
Ellsworth will be home to the aircraft and Airmen until October when the runway reconstruction is scheduled for completion. Half of the Airmen from Minot will be housed on Ellsworth and the other half will live off base.
Kennedy said that Airmen from Minot and Ellsworth have been busy coordinating on the upcoming operations to identify and resolve any potential difficulties, adding that when Ellsworth deploys, the base often conducts missions with a variety of aircraft from the same airfield.
"The upcoming operations at Ellsworth are no different and provide a great opportunity for our Airmen to train in the same manner they will operate when conducting joint operations around the globe," Kennedy said.
More aircraft on the base's ramp equates to more air traffic, but Kennedy said the base expects approximately 10 B-52 sorties per week in addition to the normal transient traffic and B-1 operations.
Col. Todd Copeland, 5th Operations Group commander who will be part of the Minot cadre operating out of Ellsworth, said the runway reconstruction is part of the Air Force's commitment to infrastructure enhancement to ensure the mission capability of its fleet.
"The lifespan of the runway at Minot is at its end," said Copeland, who has more than 23 years of experience flying the B-52. "The infrastructure enhancement of Minot's runway is one of the Air Force's top priorities, as it will ensure continued operations of the B-52s - an icon of American Airpower."
Another key benefit of conducting missions from Ellsworth is the dynamic teamwork, communication and integrated training opportunities between Airmen from the two bases.
"We've always had a close relationship with Ellsworth and we're looking forward to being able to fly more with the B-1s," Copeland said. "This will create a synergistic effect between the two bombers."
Lt. Col. Joseph Kramer, 28th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations who helped coordinate the relocation of B-52s to Ellsworth, said although the airframes serve distinctive roles, aircrews and maintainers share many techniques and procedures.
"By operating together, aircrews of both the B-1 and B-52 can share best practices," Kramer said. "That's a tremendous benefit."
Copeland added that Minot Airmen relocating to Ellsworth also provides a tremendous intangible benefit for Airmen and their families that people cannot put a price on.
"Our Airmen and families endure a great deal," Copeland said. "Having the opportunity to be within seven hours of home helps reduce the impact of being separated. That's priceless."