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Whiteman Airmen make first all-air Guard B-2 flight

Col. Gregory Champagne and Maj. David Thompson take off on a B-2 Spirit mission June 18 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. It was the first sortie flown and launched by Air National Guard members. Colonel Champagne is the 131st Fighter Wing vice commander and Major Thompson is assigned to the 131st FW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Col. Gregory Champagne and Maj. David Thompson take off on a B-2 Spirit mission June 18 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. It was the first sortie flown and launched by Air National Guard members. Colonel Champagne is the 131st Fighter Wing vice commander and Major Thompson is assigned to the 131st FW. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Maj. David Thompson prepares to board a B-2 Spirit June 18 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The flight was piloted and launched solely by Missouri Air National Guard personnel. Major Thompson is a 131st Fighter Wing pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Charles Larkin)

Maj. David Thompson prepares to board a B-2 Spirit June 18 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The flight was piloted and launched solely by Missouri Air National Guard personnel. Major Thompson is a 131st Fighter Wing pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Charles Larkin)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN) -- Airmen of the 131st Bomb Wing here completed the first B-2 Spirit sortie flown and launched by Missouri Air National Guard members June 18 at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Col. Gregory Champagne, the 131st Fighter Wing vice commander, and Maj. David Thompson, a 131st FW pilot, were launched by Master Sgt. Bob Francis and Tech Sgt. John Venable, both of the 131st Bomb Wing.

The 131st FW is losing its F-15 Eagle mission due to the recommendation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The initiative integrates Air National Guard aircrew, maintainers and support staff with their 509th Bomb Wing active-duty counterparts in support of the B-2 mission with the ultimate goal of enhancing warfighting efficiencies.

"We are currently in the process (of transitioning)," Colonel Champagne said. "It is a 2.5 year process, and we are in the first year right now. We are right on time, everything is going well."

Although guardsmen have been flying B-2 missions with 509th BW Airmen over the last year, this is first time during the wing's transition to Whiteman AFB that 131st FW aircrew and maintenance personnel completed a sortie from launch through mission execution.

"We train the same. We are the same, and our goal is the same, which is the success of the mission," Colonel Champagne said.

Presently, the Missouri Air National Guard has seven B-2 qualified pilots and four in training. There are 46 members of the 131st FW currently operating out of Whiteman AFB. The Missouri Air National Guard will have 25 B-2 qualified pilots and approximately 500 maintainers, operations members and support staff at Whiteman AFB.

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