MINOT AIR FORCE BASE A deployment is the movement of an individual or entire military unit to an overseas location to accomplish a task or mission. That mission may be to provide training or as dangerous as a war.
In June, members of the 23rd Bomb Squadron, one of two B-52 squadrons at Minot Air Force Base, are going to Andersen AFB in Guam for a five and a half month deployment.
Their mission is the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region, said Lt. Col. Mark Ely, commander of the 23rd Bomb Squadron. He said the 23rd has participated in continuous bomber presence deployments at least three times prior and the last one was October 2008 to February 2009.
Submitted Photo --
Capt. Michael Granberry, left, 23rd Bomb Squadron pilot, and Capt. Adam Roberts, right, 23rd Bomb Squadron instructor pilot, perform pre-flight checks before departure May 11, shown in this photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Ballard.
The squadron has been going through pre-deployment activities for about the past two months, Ely said.
Ely talked about what squadron members will be doing during their deployment in Guam when he spoke to members of the Minot Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee at the Minot base May 6.
"The big picture of Guam, as most of us know, is a U.S. territory an island about 30 miles long, 12 miles wide at its farthest width point there in the Pacific. Andersen Air Force Base is the name of the base out there in Guam. It's at the northern tip of the island and it's a big base with huge runways out there. A lot of operations go through the base on a continuous day-to-day basis," Ely said.
The 36th Wing is located at Andersen AFB, Ely said. "They don't have any aircraft assigned to the wing like we have B-52s that are assigned here to the 5th Bomb Wing or UH-1s assigned to the 91st Missile Wing. Mainly it's a support wing the wing commander is a one star who supports all the activity that goes on a lot of movement through the island and to support the bombers that are there as well."
"Like I said, the mission out there is the continuous bomber presence BP is the acronym that we'll hear sometimes," Ely said.
He said there are several different components to make it a successful effort, including deterrence, regional security and U.S. commitment to that region.
"With a lot of the activity that's going on in the Middle East, especially in the last 15 years and especially since 2001 and then with Iraqi Freedom starting up in 2003, a lot of our attention with the U.S. military has been devoted to the Middle East and there's a lot of political concerns in the Pacific region as you know," Ely said. "So our senior leadership has directed a continuous bomber presence out there on the island of Guam to make sure that we showcase to our allies and to our friends there in the Pacific region that we are committed to make sure that area remains peaceful."
Minot AFB presence
He said there have been bombers on Guam since about 2004. "Minot was the first base that sent B-52s out there and we've had bombers there ever since. We're on a continuous rotating basis with B-2s and B-52 bombers," Ely said.
The 23rd members have been getting ready for the deployment for a time.
"It is kind of a luxury to know that you're deploying. Obviously, we're always on call. If there's ever something happens out there, we can get out the door real fast and we're always ready to execute that but here we have a deployment that's on the books so we're able to prepare, able to extend the timelines out and make sure we have all our stuff done before we head out the door," Ely said.
Taking on fuel
"There's a lot of factors that go into obviously moving all this equipment, moving these people and especially the B-52. We do need tanker support," Ely said.
He said it will take two air refuelings to get to Guam. "Each jet will get about 150,000 pounds of gas over these two air refuelings," he said. He said one air refueling will be done just off the coast of Washington and another one just south of Alaska for the 16-hour sortie from Guam to Minot.
He said a typical week, Monday through Friday, will be a flying week for the 23rd. "We'll fly a couple sorties each of those days there in the Pacific region," he said.
Ely said one of the advantages of going to Guam is they don't have to worry about the airspace issues as they do in the states with all the airliner traffic and the limited ranges. "Out there in Guam it's essentially endless airspace. We can go out there and air refuel where we need to," he said.
They can also use a bombing range that is an island about 150 miles from Guam. "We've been bombing this island for probably 40 or 50 years," he said. He said it gives them the opportunity to drop tons and tons of bombs, which they don't have the opportunity to do here.
He said they will take the targeting pods with them and continue training for that as they do back in the home state.
Targeting pods are target designation tools used by military aircraft, usually fighter aircraft and bombers, for identifying targets and directing precision-guided munitions such as laser-guided bombs to those targets.
"Not only are we doing a very important mission in the Pacific region but we're taking an advantage of the training opportunities that we have there as well," Ely said.
He said the 23rd members will do extensive joint and coalition training as well.
Besides the B-52s being at Guam, Ely said there will be a fighter squadron there that they will work with. "There's also a lot of coalition countries that come into Guam and we'll also fly to their areas such as Japan, working with the Thais..."
He said a tanker unit will also be deployed there with them on a continuous basis. "We get those air refueling opportunities just like we have back home here so we're able to maintain our combat capability even though deployed from our home station," he said.
When they aren't flying, Ely said the 23rd's members have opportunities in Guam to work on their education as they do back at the Minot base, including on master's degrees, squadron officers' school or other intermediate development education programs or professional educational programs. They can do the work online, he said.
He said the 23rd's members also can take advantage of volunteer opportunities with the Guam community as they do with the Minot community.
He said there's a large Navy base in Guam called "Big Navy," which is south of Andersen AFB. "It's a good opportunity to go there where the aircraft carriers and submarines come into port," he said. There, he said they can get tours, work with those joint forces and learn more about how they do their mission. The Navy base also has a large Navy Exchange which many like to visit and make purchases. Exchanges on military installations are similar to civilian department stores.
At Guam, the Minot AFB officers and noncommissioned officers live in what they call the "Flintstone Houses," which is onbase housing, and the rest are in two dormitories, Ely said. He said the base has a large dining hall which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and where most of them will have their meals. He said there's also downtown food places like Popeyes Chicken, MacDonalds and, a diner at the golf course "a lot of things like we have back here stateside," he said. He said Andersen AFB also has a Base Exchange, commissary and outside the base there's local malls and shops.
Ely said the hardest thing about being deployed is being away from home but with today's technology it makes it a lot easier for the bomb squadron's members to keep in touch with family and friends.
The 69th Bomb Squadron, led by Lt. Col. Michael Cardoza, is scheduled to replace the 23rd when it returns to the base later this year, Ely said. The 69th is the second and newest squadron of B-52s at Minot AFB.