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Barksdale pilot continues family tradition

By Senior Airman Chad Warren 2 Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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First Lt. Daniel Welch has some big shoes to fill; four of them to be exact. Lieutenant Welch, a pilot with the 11th Bomb Squadron, will become the third consecutive generation of B-52 flight officers in his family.

He knew from an early age that flying was in his blood.

"I decided I wanted to fly when I was pretty young, around 5 years old," Lieutenant Welch said. "I would always see my dad wearing his flight suit and listen to his stories about flying in the
BUFF which is one of the major reasons I chose to pursue a career in aviation."

His father and grandfather both retired from the Air Force after long careers as B-52 bombardiers. Lieutenant Welch was born in Guam where his father, Lt. Col. Don Welch (ret.), a B-52 navigator, was stationed before eventually retiring from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. where he now lives.

Graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2008, Lieutenant Welch finished pilot training in December 2009 before moving to Barksdale to join the B-52 formal training unit in March 2010. The course is approximately eight months and is meant to prepare B-52 air crew for their initial duty assignment.

"They step out of here as qualified aviators," said Capt. Jacob Schwartz, 11th BS, electronic warfare instructor.

In November, Lieutenant Welch will move to Minot Air Force Base, ND and become a part of the 23rd Bomb Squadron, the unit his grandfather, Col. Don Sprague (ret.), commanded in the 1970s.

"It's a privilege for me to be a part of the same squadron my grandfather once was," said Lieutenant Welch. "Growing up with a family so heavily involved in the military, particularly flying, motivated me to pursue a similar path."

Although the mission has changed dramatically since his grandfather's time, he is joining a small, tightly-knit group of B-52 aviators with a legacy of greatness and a heritage of bravery.
"It takes trained Airmen and air crew to accomplish the mission," said Lt. Col. Kieran Denehan, 11th BS commander. "Even though the mission has changed, there is a common theme in the character and commitment to their nation."

The Air Force has used the B-52 in active service since 1955, and is scheduled to continue its use until 2040. That leaves plenty of time for a fourth generation of the Welch family to add to the family's line of B-52 warriors.

"If I have a child, I'll encourage them to do what makes them happy," he said. "If that happens to be to become a military pilot, I will support them 100 percent."