COVID-19 cannot stop the 393rd EBS

Airmen prepared for a Bomber Task Force Europe deployment by following all recommended guidelines to ensure the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron could continue being a ready and resilient force during the COVID-19 outbreak.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class James Allen, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron crew chief, conducts preflight checks on a B-2 Spirit during a Bomber Task Force Europe mission, at Lajes Field, Azores, March 19, 2021. Airmen prepared for the deployment by following all recommended guidelines to ensure the 393rd EBS could continue being a ready and resilient force during the COVID-19 outbreak. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)

Airmen prepared for a Bomber Task Force Europe deployment by following all recommended guidelines to ensure the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron could continue being a ready and resilient force during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A B-2 Spirit, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, flys over Praia after taking off from Lajes Field, Azores, March 22, 2021. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the bomber supported a Bomber Task Force mission and integrated with a B-1 Lancer, assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in the High North. To deploy safely, members of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron worked with allies and partners to develop mutually agreed upon guidelines and procedures to reduce the chance of transmission during the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar)

LAJES FIELD, Azores --

While the world has been battling with the spread of COVID-19 for the past year, the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron has not let that slow them down.

Over the past year Team Whiteman has learned and refined operations to keep Airmen safe during COVID-19. Airmen have developed habit patterns that include cleaning, social distancing, and mask wearing, which have been key to their success.

“Throughout this pandemic the B-2 Spirits never stopped because we have a nuclear and conventional strategic mission—so we are always ready to go,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Conant, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. “This is the third deployment for the 393rd EBS since COVID-19 started. By thinking critically and problem solving, we’ve not only learned how to keep the mission going, we have actually refined many processes and found new ways to become more efficient.”

For the deployment to Lajes Field, Azores, members of the 393rd EBS practiced all standard COVID-19 practices, including mask wearing and social distancing. Members also completed a 14-day restriction of movement and had to receive a negative COVID-19 test, before leaving Whiteman AFB. Once the team arrived at Lajes Field, every member participated in two additional COVID-19 tests, to ensure they were healthy to continue the mission.

“Thus far, there have been zero issues of concern,” said Conant. “All-in-all, I think the whole team, including the 65th Air Base Group, our Portuguese hosts, and the 393rd EBS, have done a great job to ensure we won’t bring any additional cases to this beautiful island.”

Lajes Field is located on the island of Terceira, as of March 14, 2021 there are a total of two active local COVID-19 cases. An outbreak on the island could be devastating to the population.

“In any location or population, the failure to abide by adequate precautions puts the entire community at risk,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Tammy S. Hinskton, 65th Air Base Group commander. “Understanding our geographic limitations and relatively small community, the repercussions of inadequate precautions would cause an unnecessary risk to our military and civilian members and in turn the mission at Lajes Field.”

As a fulcrum point of the Atlantic Air Bridge, Lajes Field is postured to provide the U.S. Department of Defense and allied nations a power projection platform for credible combat forces across Europe and Africa. Ensuring the health and safety of the population helps ensure Lajes Field remains an effective asset.

“Follow the guidelines published for our protection: Wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitize common areas, and when you get the opportunity, get vaccinated,” added Hinskton. “Take these precautions to care for yourself, the ones you love, and our host community.”

The precautions implemented by the 393rd EBS have proved effective in ensuring the readiness of the unit.

“Case in point, the deployed team here is trailblazing a ton of new initiatives that are making us faster, leaner, and more lethal,” said Conant. “I am not convinced COVID-19 has degraded our mission. In fact, I know it’s made us better.”

Protecting Team Whiteman and partners has been a priority from the start, and the members of the 393rd EBS are doing their part to take the appropriate precautionary measures. Together they have coordinated with allies and partners to understand the COVID-19 requirements on Terceira, and worked together to develop and adhere to strict, mutually agreed-upon guidelines and procedures that help reduce the chance of transmission during the Bomber Task Force Europe mission.