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B-1 pilot breaks 5,000 hour mark

A B-1 bomber piloted by Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, thunders down the runway at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who passed the 5,000 flying hours mark during a return flight from Southwest Asia, is the first B-1 aviator to reach the milestone in that aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

A B-1 bomber piloted by Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, thunders down the runway at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who passed the 5,000 flying hours mark during a return flight from Southwest Asia, is the first B-1 aviator to reach the milestone in that aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

A B-1 bomber piloted by Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, thunders down the runway at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who passed the 5,000 flying hours mark during a return flight from Southwest Asia, is the first B-1 aviator to reach the milestone in that aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

A B-1 bomber piloted by Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, thunders down the runway at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who passed the 5,000 flying hours mark during a return flight from Southwest Asia, is the first B-1 aviator to reach the milestone in that aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Tania Schepper, wife of Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, hoses down her husband after his return flight from Southwest Asia at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper is the first B-1 bomber aviator in history to achieve 5,000 flying hours. The pilot with the next highest amount of hours at Ellsworth has flown 3,270 hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Tania Schepper, wife of Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, hoses down her husband after his return flight from Southwest Asia at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper is the first B-1 bomber aviator in history to achieve 5,000 flying hours. The pilot with the next highest amount of hours at Ellsworth has flown 3,270 hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Tania Schepper, wife of Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, hoses down her husband after his return flight from Southwest Asia at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper is the first B-1 bomber aviator in history to achieve 5,000 flying hours. The pilot with the next highest amount of hours at Ellsworth has flown 3,270 hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Tania Schepper, wife of Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, hoses down her husband after his return flight from Southwest Asia at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper is the first B-1 bomber aviator in history to achieve 5,000 flying hours. The pilot with the next highest amount of hours at Ellsworth has flown 3,270 hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers, July 15, 2013. Schepper reached the milestone during a 19 – hour mission that originated in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers, July 15, 2013. Schepper reached the milestone during a 19 – hour mission that originated in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers, July 15, 2013. Schepper reached the milestone during a 19 – hour mission that originated in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers, July 15, 2013. Schepper reached the milestone during a 19 – hour mission that originated in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper’s accomplishment is one of the many milestones for the B-1, which includes eight years of consecutive deployment and racking up nearly 10,000 combat missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper’s accomplishment is one of the many milestones for the B-1, which includes eight years of consecutive deployment and racking up nearly 10,000 combat missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper’s accomplishment is one of the many milestones for the B-1, which includes eight years of consecutive deployment and racking up nearly 10,000 combat missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airmen congratulate Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, on being the first person to achieve 5,000 hours flying B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper’s accomplishment is one of the many milestones for the B-1, which includes eight years of consecutive deployment and racking up nearly 10,000 combat missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Dan Ruder, Boeing B-1 bomber advanced program manager, congratulates Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, after his record-breaking return flight from Southwest Asia by at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who has flown more than 5,000 hours in the B-1, credits his family and fellow Airmen for helping him reach the milestone.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Dan Ruder, Boeing B-1 bomber advanced program manager, congratulates Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, after his record-breaking return flight from Southwest Asia by at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who has flown more than 5,000 hours in the B-1, credits his family and fellow Airmen for helping him reach the milestone.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Dan Ruder, Boeing B-1 bomber advanced program manager, congratulates Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, after his record-breaking return flight from Southwest Asia by at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who has flown more than 5,000 hours in the B-1, credits his family and fellow Airmen for helping him reach the milestone.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)
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Dan Ruder, Boeing B-1 bomber advanced program manager, congratulates Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator, after his record-breaking return flight from Southwest Asia by at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 15, 2013. Schepper, who has flown more than 5,000 hours in the B-1, credits his family and fellow Airmen for helping him reach the milestone.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- After a 19-hour flight from Southwest Asia, July 15 will be forever marked as the day one of Ellsworth's own accomplished a history-making feat unheard of across the entire Air Force.

Lt. Col. Timothy Schepper, 28th Operations Group senior evaluator and B-1 bomber pilot, became the first ever B-1 pilot to achieve 5,000 flying hours in the airframe - a record that puts him nearly 1,800 hours ahead of any competition at Ellsworth, and nearly 800 hours ahead of anyone Air Force-wide.

Schepper's homecoming was spared no fanfare. At the first sight of her husband, Schepper's wife, Tania, hosed him down to celebrate the most recent milestone in a dream that began before the two had even met.

"We're all very excited and proud of him," said Tania. "I can recall his mother showing me a particular picture of him as a small child flying a toy airplane he received for Christmas. Becoming a pilot is something that she always thought he was destined to do."

Of the 5,000 hours Schepper has flown throughout his 22-year-long career, 1,300 of those were combat hours.

"It seems like it's been a long time coming and yet it seemed to happen fairly quickly from my career standpoint," Schepper explained. "After all these years it seems like my body is perfectly formed to fit in that seat now. I'm thinking perhaps its adjusted my posture a little bit over the time I've spent sitting in there."

Schepper described the sense of joy he felt when seeing his family after taking the first few steps down from the B-1.

"My family has always supported me significantly," Schepper emphasized. "I've had five deployments over the past 10 years, and obviously as everybody knows, when you're away from home there are a lot of things that still need to be done. My wife and my kids have had to endure and do a lot of things to make up for when I wasn't around. I look forward to spending time with them."

Also present to congratulate the lieutenant colonel was Dan Ruder, Boeing B-1 advanced program manager, who has been working on the B-1 program since it was initially introduced to the Air Force 30 years ago.

"This is a huge milestone for both the B-1 platform and Lt. Col. Schepper," said Ruder. "The aircraft has nearly 10,000 combat missions logged and has been deployed for eight consecutive years. This day solidifies how the B-1 is still a critical element to our national security."

Tania said that breaking this milestone brought mixed emotions for both her and her husband.

"We have been a part of this community for so long," Tania noted. "He didn't just accomplish this on his own. It takes maintenance, and it takes the help and support of other pilots, and community members. As I watched him land, I felt a tinge of sadness knowing that he may not fly again."

Schepper added that it isn't clear yet what the future has in store for him and his family, adding that he planned to go home and take a nap before anything else.

"After that flight, I've been up for just about 24 hours now, and I haven't thought much about what I'm going to do past this evening," Schepper said. "I know I might be retiring soon, but nothing definitive as of right now. This was just another mission and it just happened to get me to that 5,000-hour mark. I want everyone to know that I truly appreciate their help and support."

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