B-1B provides combat air support
By Senior Airman Hannah Landeros, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 05, 2013
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As troops on the ground mobilize or need rest at the end of the day, the B-1B is one of primary aircrafts used to ensure their safety.
The 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is airborne throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Flying missions nearly 24/7/365, one of the B-1's capabilities and key roles here at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing is to provide combat air support to troops on the ground through long range bombing capability.
"The importance is to provide a comfort blanket for troops to pull out of a forward operating base or we provide over watch so they can get some sleep," said Capt. Erick Lord, a 9th EBS weapons systems officer and a Wichita, Kan., native. "We will fly 500 feet above the ground either at subsonic or supersonic speeds to create a lot of noise. That is usually enough to make the bad guys retreat and break contact."
Serving as the backbone of America's long-range bomber force, the B-1 carries the largest payload of guided and unguided munitions in the Air Force.
"What makes us different from the rest of the striker aircraft is we carry a ton of gas and a ton of weapons," Lord said.
The members aboard the B-1 consist of an aircraft commander, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers.
As the pilots take control of the aircraft, it's the weapons systems officers who keep the aircraft and troops on the ground safe from enemy contact.
"We are the on-call fire power of the sky," said Capt. Laura Hunstock, 9th EBS WSO and a Bossier City, La., native.
WSOs are in charge of defense counter measures, deploying ordinance, managing the sensors, the radar, and the targeting pod.
Advanced technology on the B-1 allows WSO's to view the landscape before units on the ground move into them, explained Hunstock. With this capability they are also able to assist helicopters in locating safe places to land for evacuations.
"We can clear the landing zones from any animals or any people in the area," said Hunstock, "We can pinpoint the exact location using the targeting pod."
Whether it's by show of force or dropping weapons, the 9th EBS assists American and coalition troops live to fight another day, and return home.
"Hearing the guys on the ground say, 'hey thanks, you helped us out,'" Lord said, "I think that's what we all like about this job -- it's what we live for."