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20th EBS Airmen assume continuous bomber presence in Guam

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ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- More than 300 Airmen assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., arrived here recently to replace the 96th EBS in support of U.S. Pacific Command's continuous bomber presence.

The rotation of bomber aircraft is specifically designed to enhance regional security and demonstrate the U.S.'s commitment to stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Andersen AFB has hosted the CBP since 2003, when Pacific Air Forces officials began to routinely deploy B-1 Lancers, B-2 Spirits and B-52 Stratofortresses to Guam on a rotational basis. The base's mission is to support PACOM and 13th Air Force objectives as part of the CBP and for any and all contingency operations that may come about, said Lt. Col. Michael Miller, the 20th EBS commander.

"The B-52 provides the capability to reach anywhere in the PACOM area of responsibility with a wide variety of weapons, allowing us to respond to whatever threats arise," Miller said.

The CBP also allows the opportunity to integrate bombers into joint and coalition training exercises in the Pacific.

"Since our arrival two weeks ago, we have already participated in one training exercise and there are at least 10 more we have identified over the next several months," Miller said. "We will also have the unique opportunity to participate in exercises with our allies from Korea, Japan and Australia -- an experience not available to us during our time in the United States."

Fewer airspace restrictions, closer training ranges and the miles of endless ocean that surround the island make Guam a unique environment difficult to replicate during stateside training flights, he added.

"Pacific Command covers a huge expanse of area," Miller said. "We train primarily in the continental United States, over land, with navigation aids to help us and airfields all over the place. The challenges and opportunities for growth while operating in this AOR are dramatically different. We also don't get to train with foreign allies while at home, so being able to see how they operate and integrate is essential to raising the proficiency of our squadron to the next level."

It's not only the aircrew who will have a chance to grow. Airman 1st Class Megan France, a 20th EBS intelligence analyst, is charged with the responsibility of providing continual support to the B-52 mission, delivering vital information on conditions in the area of responsibility. France said she looks forward to gaining valuable real-world experience and honing her skills in a new environment.

"It is interesting to see how systems change from one location to the next," Airman France said. "The PACOM AOR has a high operations tempo and I know I can gain experience and training over the next few months that will benefit me throughout my career."

In between flying missions, members of the 20th EBS hope to build a good rapport with the local community, improve fitness and foster espirit de corps within their squadron, Miller said.

"The capabilities of the B-52 are vital to PACOM plans, and our crews get to see firsthand how we fit into those plans while simultaneously focusing on training," he said. "This truly is the best opportunity we're given for real-world and realistic training at the same time. My hope is to leave here a better trained and more cohesive unit."

Article by Airman 1st Class Whitney Tucker, 36th Wing Public Affairs