Welcome to the BUFF
By Senior Airman Stuart Bright, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 16, 2019
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE, La. --
Nearly 30 Airmen sit in a small auditorium, all wearing in green flight suits. Most of them are quiet, waiting for something to happen. They are surrounded by white walls, covered in pictures of aircraft, symbols of old military units and Honor Boards. Suddenly a loud voice yells “Room, tench hut!” and everyone stands as a new man in the same green flight suit walks in and tells everyone to sit down.
“Welcome Class 20-1, welcome to the B-52,” announced Lt. Col. Richard Ruliffson, 11th Bomb Squadron commander.
After initial flight school, aviators who are selected to fly the B-52H Stratofortress arrive at the 11th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale for their formal training on the aircraft.
The squadron can have anywhere from 80 to 90 students going through the 35-week course at a time, with approximately 30 students per class.
While in the classroom, students are taught procedures and then demonstrate them in simulators. After transitioning from the classroom to the actual aircraft itself, aviators perform multiple tasks including air refueling, bomb runs, maneuvering, defending the aircraft and landing.
“You cannot excel in an opportunity if you are not prepared,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Bemis, 11th BS instructor pilot. “Here it means studying hard and learning how to use the weapons system.”
The course will not only train future crew members on how to fly the historic aircraft, the 11th BS is also the student’s introduction into life in the B-52 community.
“Ever since I was a lieutenant and young captain, I had such influential squadron commanders that I was under,” Rullifson said. “I wanted to be influential just like that to other folks and provide impact not only to their career but their life.”
It takes 40 Airmen to operate the squadron. While some of the instructors are from the 11th BS itself, including civilians that were B-52 aviators while on active duty, many of the instructors are pulled from the 93rd Bomb Squadron, another unit on Barksdale.
The 11th BS has been around for more than 100 years, dating back to World War I. Since it’s activation it has been deactivated and reactivated multiple times, including becoming a missile squadron before finally coming to Barksdale in 1994. Since its inception, the squadron has been represented by Mr. Jiggs, a cartoon man in a tuxedo carrying a bomb under his arm. He's on all the patches and shields for the 11th BS.
“Mr. Jiggs is a well-dressed man carrying a bomb,” said Bemis. “That is why our slogan is “dressed to kill.””
As the squadron has transformed over the years, the 11th is now molding the future of this bomber community.
“My favorite part of the mission is teaching the students,” Rullifson said. “Where the lightbulb clicks and you literally see it in the students' eyes or the way they perform a task, that’s the best part. You see what you are teaching actually get through and they know how to execute the mission.”