10 year anniversary of strikes against Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 509th Bomb Wing and its B-2 Spirits led the way Oct. 7, 2001, striking the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and signaling the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. Oct. 7, 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. opening this new front on the war against terrorism.

More than a decade later, many of the pilots who were involved in the strike force remain stewards of the nuclear enterprise here in support of global deterrence.

Col. Andrew Gebara, now the 509th Bomb Wing vice-commander, was one of those pilots.

"After Kosovo, some in the program felt the strategic situation was such that we wouldn't have to worry about active combat for awhile," Gebara said. "Those who held these illusions had them shattered on 9/11, when jihadists brutally attacked us in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC."

Gebara said that afternoon his commander called the squadron together to explain what had happened, and inform the pilots that some of them would deploy immediately.

"Within a matter of days a small cadre of Whiteman operators and maintainers were sent to a forward location on an island base in the Indian Ocean," Gebara added.

Three and a half weeks after the attacks on 9/11, the U.S., responded with a military build-up labeled Operation Enduring Freedom aimed at destroying terrorist training camps and facilities within Afghanistan. For the first three days of the strike, the 509th BW launched six B-2 Spirits over the pacific to drop bombs on target in Afghanistan; one of them conducting a 44-hour flight - the longest bombing mission in aviation history to date.

"We launched America's initial B-52 retaliatory attacks against the Taliban, and served as a refueling base for B-2s returning from their missions," he said. "We quickly turned the jets and got them back to Whiteman; by the time we shut the engines down, the jets had been in continuous operation for more than 77 hours, an amazing testament to the men and women who designed, built, and maintained these aircraft.

"While I was disappointed to be chosen to fly a jet home instead of to Afghanistan, I was--and remain--immensely proud of our efforts in 2001; we once again proved the value of long range strike and the Airmen who make it happen," Gebara added.

After the strikes, the 509th Bomb Wing commander at the time, then - Brig. Gen. Anthony Pryzbyslawski, spoke on the achievements of the initial strikes and Operation Enduring Freedom.

"We have proven that the B-2 is the leading edge of any kind of effort that the United States will take against any enemy," Przybyslawski said. "To successfully pull that off definitely has a historic aspect with a 44.3-hour sortie, which was the longest combat sortie ever. I don't think we'll ever beat it, because it's the furthest place in the world that you can get to from the United States. So, I think that record will stand for quite a while. If anything, it will just get longer by our bombers. That, it goes without saying, was one of our most significant accomplishments."

Ten years later, the B-2 Spirit and the 509ers who operate it, continue to spearhead global strike operations against terrorist in the Middle-east.

In March earlier this year, three B-2 Spirits dropped 45 bombs on Gaddafi forces in Libya, knocking down the door at the start of another military conflict.