Aircrew from the 20th Bomb Squadron prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., June 28. Though the need for a 24-hour alert aircrew is not often necessary, aircrews still train and practice alert procedures and quick departures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
B-52 co-pilot 1st Lt. Dallas Wright, 20th Bomb Squadron, inspects the engine of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., June 28. Though the need for a 24-hour alert aircrew is not often necessary, aircrews still train and practice alert procedures and quick departures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
6/29/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The B-52H Stratofortress is known for its longevity, reliability, global reach and wide array of weaponry. However, without aircrew ready for battle, the B-52 would just be an expensive static display.
Though the need for having a scheduled 24-hour alert aircrew is not often necessary, aircrews still train and prepare for alert conditions.
"When you're on alert, you're always on duty, 24-hours a day, ready to go," said Capt. Paul Yeagley, 20th Bomb Squadron pilot. "It's one thing to have a gun; it's another to know how to use it."
The capability of each B-52 carrying up to 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance combined with highly trained rapid response aircrews provides leadership with a very powerful and flexible weapon system.
"Having aircrew ready to roll at a moment's notice is a valuable tool for the president and commanders," said 1st Lt. Dan Ecklebe, 20 BS pilot. "It's a tool they can use to signal other countries and our allies of our readiness capabilities."
According to Yeagley, the B-52H is also a political weapon.
"Its' a way to prevent nuclear war, a way for us to show the rest of the world we are serious," he said.
Once an alert is announced, aircrews are called in and briefed. After the briefing, aircrews complete all the necessary tasks needed to fly. Once they receive the call, they go straight to the aircraft and take-off.
"Once that's over, your job is to stay ready," said Ecklebe. "There is no going out to the movies; it's you playing cards or watching TV with the (crew)."
Once at the alert facility, aircrews are advised to eat, rest and relax so they are ready when the call comes.
"Eat till you're tired, sleep till you're hungry," said 1st Lt. Justin Silva, 20th Bomb Squadron navigator, recounting an alert crew phrase.
While aircrews are waiting for the call, maintenance Airmen are hustling to ensure aircraft are ready for take-off.
"Watching the amount of work that goes into getting the jets ready is incredible," said Yeagley. "Knowing that maintenance and munitions have done their job when everything is ready to go is a whole new level of readiness."
While on alert, crews can go several hours or days before receiving the call, but once it comes, the tranquil setting bustles with action.
Everyone is flying out the door, piling into several different trucks and speeding down the flightline signaling to security forces at the entry control points, according to Silva. The response is really fast paced and high stress.
To get accustomed to the high stress, aircrews train frequently on alert scenarios to hone their skills and prepare them for real-world crises.
"We are just kind of conditioned. You don't really think; you just react and go," said Yeagley. "My bags are packed sitting at my house ready to roll."