343rd EBS fulfills dual mission

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Theodore Daigle
  • 307th Bomb Wing
The 343rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron completed a unique, dual mission from RAF Fairford, England, Sept. 18, 2018. During their time here the unit flew several sorties employing the B-52 Stratofortress, in support of both exercise Ample Strike 18 and Bomber Task Force operations from the base.

Ample Strike 18, led by the Czech Republic, is an exercise designed to improve interoperability between air crews and Joint Terminal Air Controllers. Bomber Task Force operations evaluate the readiness of U.S. strategic assets to ensure they are able to carry out security commitments.

Although tactically different, both Ample Strike 18 and the BTF shared a common strategic goal.

“Being here shows our commitment, especially to NATO, because [during] Ample Strike we are working with 18 other allies and partners,” said Lt. Col. Pat Booker, 343rd EBS detachment commander.

The presence of the BTF also ensures the U.S. is able to respond quickly to any possible contingencies or challenges that might occur in the area.

“We have bombers forward-deployed here at RAF Fairford and around the world,” said Booker. “ [The aircraft] send a strong message to any potential bad actors, both state and non-state, that we are close.”
During Ample Strike 18, JTAC training involved controlling and directing munitions of warplanes on simulated enemy positions. Having bombers on-hand to help with training provided some Airmen a unique opportunity.

“Primarily, the aircraft in this area are air mobility types and fighters,” said Lt. Col. Michael Green, 343rd EBS director of operations. “To have bombers available gives these JTACS a training opportunity some of them have rarely experience.”

Although this is the third year the 307th Bomb Wing has supported Ample Strike, several elements differentiated it from previous efforts. Having a bomber task force mission to handle at the same time as Ample Strike 18 was something not encountered in past years.

The 343rd EBS had to juggle contrasting missions in a forward operating environment devoid of many items, like spare parts, which can be readily found at home stations.

“To get forward deployed to a location like this, where we don’t have all the infrastructure available as at Barksdale, you just have to come in and make do with fewer resources,” said Green. “Our people get to experience that here.”

Previous trips to RAF Fairford normally involved an integration of one Reserve unit and one active duty unit. However, this year’s tasking involved personnel from four Reserve units and one active duty unit.

The 343rd EBS is comprised of both Citizen Reserve Airmen from the 307th Bomb Wing, the 944th Fighter Wing, the 302nd Airlift Wing, the 446th Airlift Wing, and active-duty personnel from the 2nd Bomb Wing, all operating under the total force enterprise model.

Booker said the integration of the different units and service components was seamless.

“I really can’t tell the difference between active duty and Reserve [Airmen] because we all have the same standard,” he said. “We have a lot of strong leadership, not only with the aircrews, but on the maintenance and support side as well, and that has contributed to our success.”