by Senior Airman Joseph Raatz
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
10/7/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- While
the B-52 Stratofortress owns the skies around Barksdale Air Force Base,
spotting a fighter or tanker in the area is not uncommon.
Barksdale often serves as a refueling stop for military aircraft and is
an operations center for joint-force exercises like Green Flag. But on
rare occasions, the home of the 2nd Bomb Wing plays an even bigger role:
Several KC-135 Stratotankers, dozens of F-15E Strike Eagles and more
than 200 Airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina,
temporarily relocated to Barksdale, Oct. 1, to avoid potential damage
caused by Hurricane Joaquin.
"It's great that the Air Force has facilities where aircraft can escape
to evade harm or weather elements," William Flentge, 2nd Operations
Support Squadron airfield manager, said. "We're proud to provide that at
Category 4 hurricanes like Joaquin can create punishing winds of up to 156 mph and cause catastrophic damage.
Barksdale's number one goal of preparing for and receiving the aircraft
was to protect them from danger, Flentge explained. Hurricane-force
winds could easily have damaged any aircraft caught on the ramp, making
evacuation the most logical decision.
While the 2nd Bomb Wing was more than happy to provide refuge for
Seymour Johnson's Airmen and aircraft, Barksdale currently fields 48
B-52s and has a corresponding-sized infrastructure. Hosting double that
number of aircraft, even temporarily, posed a tremendous challenge.
"There are plans on file for us to do this kind of thing, however, it
doesn't always seem like that plan is complete when it's brought to the
table and you really have to think outside the box to figure out how to
do what works best for everybody. So that's what we did," said Master
Sgt. Michael Hollister, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit B-52 production
In addition to finding parking space for more than 60 additional
aircraft, Barksdale maintainers and airfield management personnel had to
coordinate fuel deliveries and ensure proper safety measures were in
"For this many aircraft to come in at the same time, it really is a huge
challenge for us and what we have to do," Hollister said. "But we were
ready for that challenge and we rose to the occasion. I think it's
fantastic that we can do this and still execute our mission, they can
execute their mission, Green Flag is still going on and everyone seems
to be rolling with the punches and moving forward. I'm proud of everyone
we have here working to get these guys settled in. They really did a
Redistributing aircraft in the face of a hurricane is something
Barksdale is well-acquainted with. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina
struck the Gulf Coast with devastating results, causing approximately
1,500 deaths and more than $100 billion in damage. As the storm moved
northward, Barksdale was forced to relocate its B-52s to bases around
"To see it the opposite way, to be the ones taking in all these aircraft
and sheltering them, is really cool," Hollister said. "I feel pretty
good about what we've done. These guys needed refuge, and we did what we
had to do to get them bedded down."
The decision to relocate so many aircraft is generally made several days
in advance, giving both bases time to prepare. The time it took to make
the decision to evacuate Seymour Johnson's aircraft and get the first
flight airborne? About four hours.
"I don't know how you all did it, but you were able to support us
phenomenally well, through the maintenance group, the logistics
readiness squadron and the operations group. It was just incredible,"
said Col. Andy Freeman, 414th Fighter Group commander. "Col. Goodwin,
your team has done phenomenal work for us. I can't believe [they] did it
that quick. It was like a well-oiled machine, and I couldn't imagine
that they put it together that fast to support all our troops showing
To thank Team Barksdale for their generosity, Airmen from the 4th
Fighter Wing offered guided tours of their aircraft to Barksdale
"This is my first evacuation to Barksdale. I've been to many other bases
with Strike Eagles, but I'm pretty sure that this is the base we want
to return to because of the open arms we've received," Freeman said.
The ability to successfully relocate so many aircraft in such a short
time highlights the flexibility that has helped make the U.S. Air Force
the world's premier military aviation force.
"When you look behind you, and you see all these airplanes on the ramp,
that's what our Air Force is capable of," Freeman said, gazing out over
the mix of B-52s, F-15Es and KC-135s. "It demonstrates our flexibility
and how well we can move at a moment's notice. It's just an amazing
Through the hard work and dedication of Team Barksdale, the 2nd BW was
able to successfully host the evacuated aircraft and Airmen for nearly a
week, with no interruption to B-52 flight operations.
"The collaborative work of both the 4th FW and 2nd BW at Barksdale is a
true example of total force effort," said Col. Mark Slocum, 4th FW
commander. "We thank our 2nd BW partners for being world-class hosts to