B-2 weapons school... so easy a caveman can do it!
Commentary by Lt. Col. Rodney Cousins
325th Weapons Squadron commander
8/27/2008 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Since my return to the 325th Weapons Squadron a year ago, I have realized time and again that many Whiteman personnel are unaware of how Cavemen contribute to the Air Force mission of "Fly, Fight, and Win!"
When I say I work in the Weapons Squadron, many immediately confuse us with the 509th Munitions Squadron. On the flightline, Airmen see the 325th patch on my arm and say they used to be in the 325th Bomb Squadron and were unaware the unit still existed.
When folks ask what we do, I dislike what often is the short answer of, "Have you seen Top Gun? We do that only our course is longer and harder." Therefore I would like to introduce, or reacquaint, you to the Cavemen and let you know how the 325th WPS supports the 509th Bomb Wing and the rest of the Air Force. I will do this by detailing what Weapons School is all about and what your 509ers do as students during their time here.
First, the 325th WPS is a tenant unit on Whiteman that reports to the United States Air Force Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev., and subsequently through the 57th Wing and USAF Warfare Center to Air Combat Command.
Our mission is to teach graduate-level instructor courses, which provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers of the combat air forces. We do this by executing two five and a half month courses per year for a small number of AF-level board selected B-2 instructor pilots. In fact, I just returned from Randolph AFB, Texas, where a panel of representatives from each Major Command selected the 09A class to start next January.
Our two-three students join approximately 100 others representing almost every major weapon system in the AF inventory. Our focus is different from Top Gun in that we train our students not only to be steely-eyed meat eaters (master tacticians) but also outstanding instructors who can take their lessons learned back to their operational units. There they pass the training on to line pilots, ultimately improving the warfighting capability of the entire AF. Along the way we develop leadership qualities and instill the Weapons School mantra of "Humble, Approachable, Credible" in the students.
In the current class we just finished what is called Weapons Phase, where the students began receiving more than 400 hours of in-depth academics on B-2 weapons and B-2 aircraft systems pertinent to executing a combat mission, along with many other courses to broaden their knowledge of aerial combat. They have dropped as many weapon types as possible on the Utah and Nevada ranges and started work on a graduate-level paper intended to improve B-2 combat capability.
This week the students began Surface Attack Tactics phase, where the emphasis is on making them experts at employing the B-2 in combat. SAT includes late night flights over Missouri where they practice dismantling the air defense systems of potential adversaries with simulated enemy threats and friendly support. At the end of SAT, they can run a B-2 Mission Planning Cell and lead a three-ship of B-2s successfully through the worst threat scenarios possible.
Following SAT, they will begin Integration phase in mid-October. The focus here is to integrate B-2 combat missions with other assets in a building block approach to create lethal strike packages. The students will "fight" against a high density air threat with F-22A Raptors, then against a robust ground and air threat with F-22, F-16, EA-18G, B-1, B-52, E-3, E-8, RC-135, and KC-135s in a global strike scenario. They will then work with ground units, supporting the ground fight with on-call airpower. The last exercise, SMOKEX, is a large force exercise run from Whiteman AFB at the Smoky Hill Air National Guard ange near Salina, Kan. with B-2, A-10, JTAC, C-130, C-17, E-3, E-8, RC-135, and KC-135s executing a Global war on Terrorism scenario.
After Thanksgiving, we go to Nellis for Mission Employment phase, the "final exam." ME is best described as Red Flag on steroids. While Red Flag focuses on providing young aircrews a realistic combat environment to gain experience that will increase the likelihood of mission success and their survival in war, ME is a set of extremely difficult tactical problems that provide graduates with the tool set necessary for success in future battles.
Students figure out how to overcome dense ground and air threat environments, execute dynamic targeting, support ground forces with close air support, conduct combat search and rescue and work with special operations forces. In ME, everyone is an instructor, the threat is dialed up full throttle, and the students get to employ just about every combat capability available, which is only possible in this environment.
Following graduation in mid-December, the students return to the 509th BW to take what they have learned to their units. We tell them that no matter how hard they have worked during the course, now their real work begins, as they devote the rest of their career to improving the combat capability of the Air Force.
None of this would be possible without the hard working Cavemen making the mission happen. I am extremely grateful for our Airmen who step out beyond their skill sets to ensure the students get the best training possible. Each Cavemen, from Airman to contractor to instructor, go above and beyond to give the students training so demanding and realistic that when they are called into combat their sorties should be a walk in the park compared to what they have been through at the USAFWS.
And while the 509th BW is our primary customer, it is also our supplier. We could not provide the focused training for your next Weapons officers without the outstanding support of the operations group, 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, the 509th Munitions, Maintenance, and many other squadrons around Whiteman. Thank you for everything you do for the 325th WPS, which is totally focused on giving it all back to the 509th BW through these new graduates every six months.