Some 300 airmen and three B-52 bombers deployed from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La., at the end of May, replacing a B-2 force from the 509th BW at Whiteman AFB, Mo., that had sustained the Pacific region strategic presence mission for the last 3.5 months. The B-2 element flew more than 120 sorties, covering 700 flying hours, during which the stealth bomber unit upgraded some of its pilots among other training. “We’ve maintained an unbelievably high sortie rate,” said Lt. Col. Jason Armagost, commander of Whiteman’s 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. One of the highlights of the Whiteman continuous bomber presence (CBP) tour, said Maj. Matthew Michaud, 13th EBS weapons and tactics chief, was “to integrate quite a bit” with the F-22 stealth fighter force that had deployed at the same time from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. During its CBP tour, the Barksdale B-52 force also will get to integrate with new F-22 fighters, and, according to Lt. Col. David Ballew, commander of the 2nd BW’s 96th EBS, “plenty of focused training.” In addition to familiarizing his crews with the Pacific region, he said, they get “to fly maritime interdiction and mining sorties that are hard to get back home.” Ballew noted that the B-52s, though they are “older than almost all of the crew members flying them,” they are “not your mother’s B-52” because “it’s completely reworked on the inside.” (Andersen reports by SSgt. Jennifer Redente—B-52 report and B-2 report)
The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness revised the Defense Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. The new rules clarify what’s meant by being “up to date” on vaccinations and when personnel must wear masks in vehicles, among other changes.