WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo --
Members of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing and the U.S. Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing gathered Aug. 4, 2018, to celebrate the unveiling of a new paint scheme on a gear door for the Spirit of Nebraska, a B-2 bomber assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
For the 131st BW, the new B-2 markings mean more than just new paint on an airplane.
“This recognition highlights the 509th Bomb Wing’s trust in the 131st,” Col. Ken Eaves, 131st Bomb Wing commander, told those in attendance. “This is a big deal, Airmen. You earned that trust. You are blended throughout our wings. This second tail represents the value you bring to the fight.”
The new paint scheme signifies the close relationship that has developed between active duty and Air National Guard units at Whiteman AFB.
“This gear door is a symbol of importance of the Air National Guard to the B-2 mission and our success in total force integration,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Rezac, commander of the 110th Bomb Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 131st BW.
Total force integration
Since 2007, the 131st BW – the only Air National Guard unit to operate and maintain B-2s – has developed an integral partnership with the 509th Bomb Wing in a unique Air Force association.
The partnership blends aspects of both units to achieve common goals within the Air Force Global Strike Command, as well as includes support for the major command’s mission to provide strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support.
“Total force integration does not work because it is written down in a regulation,” Rezac said. “This concept only works through the personnel involved and the continual education it takes for what the Guard is and how we work together.”
The sentiments were echoed by 509th BW commander Brig. Gen. John Nichols, who was on hand for the unveiling ceremony in a B-2 hangar.
“The 131st Bomb Wing and 509th Bomb Wing total force initiative is the gold standard in the United States Air Force,” Nichols said.
The Spirit of Nebraska became the second B-2 in the Air Force inventory with Guard markings, joining the Spirit of Missouri, which is dubbed “Stealth Militia,” in honor of the unit’s unique role within the Air National Guard and its members’ service to the state of Missouri.
Just as Airmen of the 509th have a proud history, dating back to World War II, Citizen-Airmen of the 110th BS take pride in their unit’s lineage, which dates back nearly a century. At that time, the 110th BS was an Army Air Corps unit within the U.S. Army National Guard’s 35th Division, and home to distinguished aviation pioneers.
The 110th BS is known as “Lindbergh’s Own” in honor of famed aviator, Charles A. Lindbergh. The slogan is included in the new markings along with a Missouri mule, which is the unit’s mascot.
“The 110th started in 1923 and Charles Lindbergh joined shortly thereafter,” Rezac said. “He flew the first long-duration mission for the unit in 1927, when he flew from New York to Paris. I know he looks down today, and with Mule Pride, as the 110th gets another long-duration platform.”
Use of “Lindbergh’s Own” by the 110th dates back to 1977, when Lindbergh’s widow, the late Anne Morrow Lindbergh, reportedly gave permission to use the surname in a letter to then-Missouri Gov. Joseph P. Teasdale, as the unit was preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the transatlantic flight.
“I know my husband took great pride in his membership in the 110th Observation Squadron, 35th Division Aviation Section of the Missouri National Guard and carried the Missouri Mule insignia on the Spirit of St. Louis on his flight to Paris,” she wrote at the time. “I am sure he would be delighted to have his name carried with the unit’s insignia.”
Following Lindbergh’s historic flight, he became an international celebrity and later made significant contributions to the development of commercial aviation. During World War II, drawing on his service within the 110th, he flew combat missions as a civilian pilot in the Pacific.
As a testament to his enduring commitment to the 110th, the unit’s shield is among the logos emblazoned on Lindbergh’s famed Spirit of St. Louis, which is prominently displayed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Making a mark
Significant effort and research went into getting the B-2 markings approved, and it began with an idea from a Guard noncommissioned officer.
“Service is a family business,” said Tech. Sgt. Travis Weiler of the 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose father served as a crew chief in the unit. “My dad’s F-4 Phantom is displayed in Whiteman’s Heritage Park.”
Weiler has been a part of the unit since 2007 and is the dedicated crew chief for the Spirit of Nebraska. He leads a total force integration team, which includes an active duty Air Force assistant crew chief.
He is credited with having initiated the idea up his chain of command and building a presentation to justify the decision to approve the markings.
“I’m proud of the history,” Weiler said. “I mentioned it to my group commander and he agreed with the concept.”
Rezac thanked the 131st Maintenance Group, led by Lt. Col. Michael Belardo, for taking up this cause and seeing it through.
“A special thanks to maintenance for making this happen. We, operations and maintenance, have always had a special relationship,” Rezac said. “I always appreciate the hard work the maintainers have always shown. True professionals.”