Military News

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Inspiring next generation: Secret Squirrel Raiders honored at Parkway High School

by Senior Airman Amanda Morris
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Students from Parkway High School honored veterans during their annual Veterans Day Tattoo Ceremony Nov. 11. Three members from Barksdale Air Force Base attended as guests of honor to be recognized for their roles in Operation Senior Surprise, a previous classified mission that helped kick-off Operation Desert Storm.

Operation Senior Surprise was a mission cooked up by Strategic Air Command during Operation Desert Shield. The term Senior Surprise was the official name of the mission, but aircrew and maintainers creatively came up with the name Secret Squirrel so they could track schedules and discuss the mission in unclassified areas.

At the start of Desert Shield, a select group of aircrew and maintainers from the 596th Bomb Squadron were briefed about the conventional air launch cruise missiles.

"I was first informed of the mission in August 1990 and then had six months to train on the new weapon. We couldn't tell anybody anything," said Warren Ward, Air Force Global Strike Command deputy chief of programming division and 596th Bomb Squadron B-52G Stratofortress co-pilot, during Operation Senior Surprise. "The 62nd BS and part of the 596th BS were largely deploying forward yet a large portion of the 596th stayed at Barksdale. We were watching our brothers in arms going forward, yet we were staying back. We had to work under a veil of secrecy."

Once briefed, the groups began extensive training to ensure that the aircraft could fly long range missions safely and flawlessly.

"When we launched the weapons, the sun was barely coming up," said Ward.

The morning of Jan. 16, 1991, seven B-52G Stratofortresses from Barksdale took off heading toward Iraqi targets, launched 35 conventional air launch cruise missiles, and returned in secret.

These buffs were the first combat sorties launched for the liberation of Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Storm, and it marked the longest combat sortie flight totaling 14,000 miles in 35 hours and 24 minutes. The clandestine mission set the standard for long range strike.

The mission remained classified until Jan. 16, 1992, when the crewmembers and maintainers who made the mission possible were presented with air, achievement and commendation medals for their efforts.

Three of these raiders shared their Veterans Day with the school to honor other veterans and to be recognized.

"It was a great honor to be recognized by Parkway. Here we are 25 years later, and the fact that they chose this particular event in history as the theme for their annual event is humbling," said Col. Trey Morriss, 307th Bomb Wing vice commander and 596th BS electronic warfare officer, during Operation Senior Surprise. "This event was a learning moment. This generation was born in a time of constant global warfare, fighting terrorism, so it is easy to forget and become complacent. Veterans Day and Memorial Day are great opportunities to remind, refresh and teach."

"It was very humbling to be part of this event, and I'm grateful because the torch is being passed to a new generation," Ward said. "We must educate people and pave the way for new generations. We need to continue to inspire patriotism to guarantee that we have a nation to hold onto in the future. I hope the ceremony has shed a light on these students to think about joining the military. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the Parkway tattoo."

No comments: