Spirit Vigilance: Defending the Homeland From the Heartland

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hailey Farrell
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 509th and 131st Bomb Wings completed Exercise Spirit Vigilance 22, Nov. 7, 2022.

Spirit Vigilance is a training exercise focused on enhancing the lethality and increasing the readiness of the Airmen who support and execute the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber mission.  

“This is a reminder that the B-2 Spirit bomber is the visible leg of nuclear triad,” said Col. Geoffrey Steeves, 509th Operations Group commander. “Simply put, the B-2 is the world's most strategic aircraft. It is the only aircraft on the planet that combines stealth, payload, and long-range strike. We are charged with delivering the nation’s most powerful weapons for our most important missions.”

Spirit Vigilance is one of a series of routine training and readiness exercises held by bomb wings across the Air Force Global Strike Command. The Vigilance series are regularly planned, multi-annual exercises conducted to continuously evaluate and enhance U.S. deterrence capabilities.

Capt. Richard Collier, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director of operations, said Spirit Vigilance is designed to test aircrews and Airmen under difficult conditions.

“We are displaying a capability here to rapidly generate and deploy [the B-2] under greater scrutiny and time restraints than the normal day-to-day flying mission,” he said. “Here we demonstrate to our near peer adversaries, as well as to ourselves, how well we can perform.”

Stealth aircraft are designed to operate covertly, but the B-2’s role in strategic deterrence depends upon its adversaries knowing exactly what it can do. Exercises like Spirit Vigilance serve to assure Allies and partners that the Airmen of the 509th Bomb Wing are ready to execute nuclear operations and global strike anytime, anywhere.

While the B-2 is a visible symbol of strategic air power, Steeves said the people behind the aircraft are the most important component of the mission.

“It’s our Airmen who truly make this platform lethal,” he said. “We require defenders out there to protect the plane, medics to maintain our health, crew chiefs and maintainers to make sure this platform remains combat ready, and operators to execute. It is our Airmen who set us apart from our adversaries. We trust and empower our Airmen to solve problems and get the mission done.”

The Total Force Airmen of the bomb wings at Whiteman AFB continually develop through training and readiness exercises like Spirit Vigilance, intended to build the teamwork and adaptability needed to meet any potential challenges.

“Our Airmen have the capability and capacity to continue to grow and develop,” Collier said. “I can do more with Airmen specifically because they are human. As they grow and develop with a particular skill set, with a particular talent that they bring to the table, we innately become greater, more lethal as an Air Force, specifically as a B-2 community.”

As potential adversaries develop new technologies designed to counter U.S. capabilities, every advantage gained becomes critical, Collier said. This includes out-strategizing competitors.

“When we think of near peers and peer adversaries, we have to think multiple steps ahead,” Collier said. “We have to maintain an advantage, and in everything we do, we are thinking, ‘How do we meet a threat?’ but also ‘how do we lean forward and think about the next threat?’ We’re not training for the past or the now, we’re training for the future. That’s how you maintain an advantage.”

Spirit Vigilance is intended to promote resilience, innovation, competitiveness and process improvement, all talents required to address today’s complex challenges and maintain an advantage over adversaries.

“Our business is all about being combat ready and we do that through our training,” Steeves said. “We expect during this exercise we’ll be thrown curveballs, but our Airmen are resilient, empowered and trusted to adapt to dynamic situations in order to execute the mission.”

As the National Defense Strategy shifts with a heightened focus on major power competition between the U.S. and our near-peers the B-2’s role in deterrence only grows in importance.

“The B-2 stealth bomber has never been more relevant than it is now,” Steeves said. “It was conceived at the height of the Cold War but fielded at the same time the Soviet Union dissolved and the Berlin Wall fell. Now, 30 years later the B-2 finds itself in the world for which it was created -- strategic competition. This exercise is a reminder that the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing are ready to execute their missions of executing nuclear operations and global strike, anytime, anywhere.”