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COMMENTARY: Learning about Barksdale through my fellow Airmen

By Staff Sgt. Haley McCohn 2nd Bomb Wing staff

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I had the opportunity to join Chief Master Sgt. Alan Boling, 8th Air Force command chief, on his tour of Barksdale and saw all the great things Airmen do here that contributes to the mission.

I felt I understood what it took to make the mission happen at Barksdale being stationed here for more than four years. However, that quickly changed when we reached the 2nd Maintenance Group. I learned about all of the work Airmen continuously perform to keep the B-52 Stratofortress ready for our nation’s call, although it sounded like a different language to me. It was as if I entered a whole new world.

Our first stop was to the 2nd Maintenance Squadron where the maintainers gave us a brief demo of how to place a parachute into the plane. Chief Boling whose background is in communication successfully attached the parachute within seconds surprising the maintainer who does the job daily. At the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Chief Boling and I learned how they inspect every single plane to make sure they are free of cracks and ready to fly. It was my first chance to stand on top of the wings of a B-52 and it gave me an immense sense of patriotism.

When we visited the 2nd Operations Group we were able to meet Airmen who work in the 2nd Operation Support Squadron. While visiting the Integrated Operations Center I learned about how BITLs are used in aircraft to secure communications.

When Chief Boling and I visited the 2nd Medical Group, I sympathized for a couple of the Airmen in Public Health. One task they recently completed was taste testing more than 60 Meals Ready to Eat (MRE). Shockingly, MREs have an original shelf life of three years. They taste test them to ensure the MREs have not spoiled so they can extend the expiration date, which saved the Air Force around $60,000.

I must admit my favorite part of the 2nd Mission Support Group tour was visiting the 2nd Security Forces Squadron because of the wide range of skills our defenders are required to continually hone. The first thing Chief Boling and I toured was their MILO range, which is an interactive training simulation. I would describe it as a life-like video game with weapons that use CO2 cartridges to simulate recoil. In my opinion the MILO range was impressive and valuable for the simple fact that defenders could potentially be in similar scenarios depicted on the screens.

We also went to see the dog kennels, an area I have never seen before. Shortly after arrival, I was unpredictably put into a bite suit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when Tech. Sgt. Cody came out of her kennel eager to take a bit out of me – I was immediately intimidated. I was put through different scenarios with her and I finally felt more confident that she wasn’t going to take my head off. It’s remarkable the amount of discipline these K9s have and how well they respond to their handlers.

I really appreciated the opportunity to see our world class Barksdale Airmen leading the way every day. I now have a deeper understanding of how all of the career fields work together to complete our mission of providing nuclear deterrence, combat power and combat support…anytime, anywhere.