For anyone who lives in the Shreveport-Bossier area, there are constant reminders of Barksdale’s presence. Whether you’re driving through the busy commercial center at the foot of the Shreveport-Barksdale Bridge and pass the busy Shreveport Gate (still to many of us old hands, the West Gate—the Gates were re-named in 2006) or driving to the more suburban and somewhat bucolic Bossier Gate (or North Gate), Barksdale is always reassuringly there. Over the past near-century, it’s formed a deep and abiding partnership with the Shreveport-Bossier area. After all, there are over 15,000 people who go to work at Barksdale every day, making it the largest employer in the Ark-La-Tex. A key defense center for strategic nuclear deterrence and global strikes, Barksdale is home to the 2nd Bomb Wing, the Air Force Global Strike Command, the “Mighty 8th” Air Force, and the Air Force Reserve’s 307th Bomb Wing. The contribution of the base to the local community in terms of economic impact amounted to approximately $822 million in 2017. You cannot live in the area and not be affected by the base, whether it’s watching the B-52s majestically glide overhead, driving alongside military transport vehicles on I-20, or encountering bright and polite young men and women in uniform at local stores and movie theaters. Of course, some of us may be more attached than others.

When I recently attended Barksdale’s Media Day, I found myself approaching the base with an odd sense of unease, anticipation, and nostalgia. As one of my fellow visitors noted, there’s something about entering a secure facility that has the odd effect of making one feel like one of the “usual suspects”. For example, I had carefully removed the Swiss Army knife I typically carry in my purse before I left the house that morning. Like many residents of this area, I’ve felt a special relationship with the base all my life—and I have good reasons. One of them came to mind quickly on our bus tour when Captain Caulk pointed to a building and told us it was the General Daughtery Conference Center, but used to be the base hospital.

Once upon a time, as all good stories should begin, there was a young airman from Cotton Valley, Louisiana who found himself in the base infirmary as young men sometimes will. In the bed next to his in the ward was another young airman, this one from Point Marion, Pennsylvania. One day, the first airman’s pretty sister came to visit. When she left, the second young airman announced, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” He did and in due time, I made my appearance, the product of citizens of two small towns a thousand miles apart who had magically managed to meet. So undoubtedly, part of my fondness for Barksdale is simply that if it weren’t there, I wouldn’t be here.
-Author’s personal reflections

An Enduring Alliance
The courtship and marriage of young couples is probably not what the men who worked so hard to get the air field to Shreveport had in mind, but it’s certainly been a notable by-product. As far back as World War I, leading citizens of Shreveport had hoped to establish a military air field in the area, but it wasn’t until 1927 that a firm plan began to emerge. In that year, learning of the U.S. Army’s search for a permanent location for the expansion of the Third Attack Group, Conway Allen, a member of the local Air Service Reserve, began to search for an appropriate Shreveport location. According to a contemporary article in The Shreveport Times, it took two years to get the sponsorship of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and he “spent several thousand dollars of his own money and countless time in interesting visiting airmen in Shreveport.” Eventually, an area beside Cross Lake was decided upon as a site and Allen and civic leader D.W. Spurlock went to Washington, D.C. to propose Shreveport for the new air field.

To their dismay, they learned that Shreveport was one of 80 cities in the running. Ultimately, when some important visitors, F. Trubee Davison, Assistant Secretary of War for Aviation, Major General James Fechet, chief of the Army Air Corps, and Brigadier General Frank Lahm, assessed the proposed location, they found it unsuitable. Springing to action, the committee hired another Air Service Reserve pilot who worked as a crop duster to make an aerial inspection of the area and recommend an appropriate location. The choice fell to an old cotton plantation just across the river in Bossier Parish.

With this information in hand, the second delegation to Washington scored a victory and faced the next challenge: persuading the Louisiana legislature to pass a bill allowing city-owned land to be donated to the federal government for military purposes. The law was quickly passed and signed by new governor Huey P. Long. Now they faced the second challenge—finding the money for the property and convincing the approximately 800 owners to sell. Local voters approved a $1.5 million bond issue for the project and the mass of owners were finally convinced to bow to the greater good. On December 4, 1930, Captain George E. Lamb, constructing quartermaster, and Thomas E. Leahy, supervising engineer arrived to supervise construction. In those days of grass landing fields, contracts were made with local companies to grade, plow, and harrow the area, then plant it with Bermuda grass. By spring of 1931, 1,500 acres had been smoothed and seeded, a task involving 159 drivers with 350 mules. Throughout that year, 900 to 1,100 local men were employed in the construction of hangars, administration, buildings, shops, etc. In late 1932, the new landing field got its first real work-out when the 20th Pursuit Group from Mather Field, California arrived at its new home.

Test pilot Lieutenant Eugene Hoy Barksdale, after whom the base was named. A hero of World War I, and early champion of air warfare, Barksdale died tragically in a 1926 plane crash.

On February 2, 1933, a crowd estimated at fifty to sixty thousand gathered for the dedication of Barksdale Field, heralded “as a gift from the City of Shreveport to the United States government”. It was then the largest air base in the world. A half-holiday had been declared throughout the city and a special issue of The Shreveport Times celebrated the opening. An editorial announced that “Today’s formal dedication of Barksdale Field enrolls Shreveport on the roster of our country’s major centers of defense… Establishment of this new home of the Third Attack Wing… wipes out the last vestige of isolation. From this date on, Shreveport stands firmly implanted in the field of international action.” The author wasn’t wrong. In the looming world war ahead, Barksdale would train not only American airmen, but also those of the Free French and the Nationalist Chinese.

The editorial ended on an important note that is still reflected today: “Certainly it is not strange that Shreveport considers it a privilege to have the residents of Barksdale Field as neighbors… the beginnings of the friendship which gain first formal recognition today should and will grow into an enduring alliance, united by the lofty purpose of the corps and the loyal patriotism of civilians.” Civic leaders echoed the sentiment, with D.W. Spurlock declaring, “Barksdale Field has given Shreveport an asset of inestimable monetary value for all time to come; it has given Shreveport a place of outstanding distinction and publicity in the United States…” The new military residents reiterated the positives of the new relationship. Brigadier-General Henry C. Pratt wrote, “I feel that the army is indeed fortunate in securing a home in your delightful and hospitable city. And in turn, Shreveport will receive many decided advantages in having Barksdale Field so close at hand, and with the continued excellent co-operation that has been shown by all concerned, both places will receive mutual benefit and pleasure by their social and business contacts.” The feeling was echoed by the numerous ads throughout the paper paid for by various businesses who sought to welcome the men of Barksdale to the area. Southern Cities Distributing Company bragged that “this is a natural gas city” and therefore “A smokeless sky—clean and clear—is yours to enjoy at Barksdale Field.” Other businesses offering their greetings including Spartan Refining Company, M. Levy Co, Baird Co., Interstate Electric Co., Piggly Wiggly, Ideal Laundry and Dry Cleaning, Selber Bros., and the First National Bank. Even the Sheriff of Bossier Parish, Louis H. Padgett, took out a personal ad saying “Greetings and Best Wishes, Barksdale.”

In 1933, the dedication of Barksdale Field was a huge event with an estimated crowd of 50-60 thousand people.

Honored guests abounded at the celebration, with a place of pride devoted to Mrs. Kate W. Barksdale, the mother of the heroic test pilot for which the field was named. The dedication program for the day outlines an ambitious program culminating in an “Aerial Demonstration” by airman from fields across the country including the Third Attack Group from Fort Crockett, the Twentieth Pursuit Group of Barksdale, detachments of cadets in both pursuit and attack from Kelly Field, the 12th Observation Group from Brooks Field, 20 planes from Randolph Field, and a detachment of bombers from Kelly Field. Those festivities were followed by a post-dedication celebration at the Washington-Youree Hotel, a private fest at Brookwood, the mansion of oil man James E. Smitherman, and a military ball at the Shreveport Country Club.

Our Most Valuable Asset
But of all the coverage by the Times, perhaps the most important was the attention it paid to the men who had come to Barksdale but never sat on a dais.

When I was a child, my uncle, Master Sergeant Vernon Cox, often brought young Airmen who didn’t have families nearby to spend weekends and holidays with us, welcomed by my grandmother, fondly called Mama Doc by them all. With eight biological children of her own, she was always ready for more. I adored those guys. They played football with us kids, helped my uncles put a roof on and electricity and plumbing in the new family lake house on Bistineau, and enlivened the family dining table with their tall tales. For the rest of her life, Mama Doc spent two hours of every morning writing to her “boys”, stationed all over the world. One of my favorite pastimes was to be allowed to look through the glass-front bookshelves in the front room that held the little treasures sent to her from around the globe.
-Author’s personal reflections

As Colonel Ty Neuman, Commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing and installation commander for all of Barksdale, pointed out in his speech on Media Day, airmen are both the heart and the backbone of the Air Force, or as he put it, “our most valuable asset”. Even in 1933, the Times reported on how quickly they made themselves a boon to the area. On January 20th of that year, workers at the Barksdale Field hospital learned that a 22-year-old Henderson, Texas woman badly needed a blood transfusion if she were to survive. Despite their heavy schedule as the base prepared to open, fifteen of the Airmen volunteered to donate the necessary blood. Private Charles Nay was found to have the suitable blood type and Mrs. Alton Billingsley went on to regain her health. As Col. Neuman reported, today’s airmen are also “innovators and heroes”.

Take, for instance, Senior Airman Bradley Matheny from the Second Operational Support Squadron. Last year, Airman Matheney took his personal leave time and went to the Texas coast that was being slammed by Hurricane Harvey. A rescue swimmer, he personally saved 117 flood victims and then led a group command which performed 500 more rescues, in the end saving more than 1,000 people. Another example is Airman Max Lehmnn from the Second Contracting Squadron. While training in technical school he saw a problem and decided to fix it rather than leaving it to others. In his spare time, he developed a computer program that better tracks Airman accountability and can be used across multiple units, saving time and money. These men were neither asked nor required to step up; they just considered it the proper thing to do.

 

A Chivalrous Knight of The Air

That’s the term the Honorable Patrick J. Hurley, then Secretary of War, used to describe Lieutenant Eugene Hoy Barksdale at the dedication of Barksdale Field on February 2, 1933. As Hurley went on to state, “[Barksdale’s] record of achievement in the service of his country still arouses the admiration and respect of all patriotic Americans.”

It’s a future that would have been totally unexpected when Barksdale was born on a Mississippi farm near Goshen Springs, Mississippi on November 5, 1897. Orville and Wilbur Wright had yet to make their fateful flight at Kitty Hawk and the expectation was that the diligent Hoy, as his family called him, would be a gentleman farmer as well. Though he performed well at Mississippi State College, once war was declared in 1917, he was determined to “do his bit” and, with his father’s written permission, left in his junior year in order to enlist.

While training and soon to be commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, he learned about the nascent air corps and instead volunteered for aviation as a first class private. Tall and slender, Barksdale was christened “High Pockets” by his flying buddies. He proved to be a daring pilot on the front lines, wounded during both the Somme and Cambrai offensives, but always returning to the air. Late in the war, he was shot down in German territory. He fired his plane, and then hid, letting the Germans think he was dead. Fortunately, he was rescued by Allied forces later that day.

In February of 1919, Barksdale returned from Europe and was posted to Mitchel Field, Long Island to serve in the 1st Aero Squadron. Soon after, he met Lura Lee Dunn whose name he painted on the side of his DeHavilland DH-4B, signaling his intentions. They were married December 15, 1921. Earlier that year, Barksdale had taken part in the bombing trials of General Billy Mitchell, along with fellow pilot Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle, later famous for the raid on Tokyo in World War II.

In November of 1923, Barksdale was assigned as a test pilot in the Flight Test Section, Engineering Division at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio. He was fulfilling those duties when he was killed August 11, 1926 in the crash of a Douglas D-2 observation plane. Five days later, he was buried at Arlington with full military honors, and seven years later his name was given to a new air field. His mother, Mrs. E.S. Barksdale, wrote to The Shreveport Times, “That the largest flying field in the world has been named in honor of my beloved son, Eugene Hoy Barksdale, gives me great pleasure. I wish to express the deep appreciation of my family for the signal honor paid his memory… Although his life was a short one, we are glad it was a full life and worthwhile one.”

Heroes or not, young men and women, like those who taught me how to throw a tight spiral, are benefited by finding a home away from home. While the base offers an array of comforts (more about that later), there’s something about a family home that can’t be duplicated elsewhere. The informal service my grandmother and uncle provided is one recognized and encouraged today through a program known as Roots for Boots. Through this program, community members have the opportunity to provide young Airmen, both men and women, with a home-away-from-home as they take on their first military assignment. Strengthening ties to the community, the program provides a method of alleviating the stress some of these young people can feel, including loneliness and homesickness. Approximately two-thirds of the Airmen are 25 or younger and, for many of them, this is their first extended time away from home. Civilians who take on this responsibility serve as the Airman’s mentor, friend, and advisor, as well as providing a place for relaxation outside of the pressure of work and deployment. The program is run by the Military Affairs Council (MAC) of Shreveport-Bossier and attempts to match host families with Airmen who share interests and characteristics, but Airmen can also request a host family by name.

These young people need good mental health to do their very important jobs—the care and maintenance of the principal object of an Air Force—airplanes.

My father, who flew frequently with the aircraft he serviced, was an avid amateur photographer. On the walls of my childhood bedroom were several studies he had made of aircraft in flight. Stunning black-and-white images, they began my lifelong fascination with flight. I loved looking at the planes at rest along the flight line, but thrilled to the sight of them taking off or landing. And my special favorite was always, and remains, the B-52.
-Author’s personal reflections

We Hang The Bang
The B-52 is both the workhorse and the warhorse of the U.S. Air Force, and Barksdale is key to maintaining the fleet of these giants. There are 48 B-52s at Barksdale and most of them have been flying for the 40 years that the B-52 Stratofortress, to give it its proper name, has been the backbone of the U.S. bomber force. As Colonel Neuman mentioned to us on Media Day, the base has “maintenance Airmen fixing jets three times their age”. But as the young men who provided us with a personal tour of the bomber explained, the B-52 is an exceptionally well-constructed aircraft that is periodically updated. And it actually flies far fewer hours than civilian aircraft, so stays healthier. There have also been newer models along the way: the B-52A first flew in 1954, but all of today’s planes are the B-52H, introduced in 1961. They are part of the 2nd Bomb Wing which falls under the Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. Ty Neuman, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing and installation commander for Barksdale Air Force Base

Essentially, the B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. It flies at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and can carry either precision guided conventional ordnance or nuclear weapons. It is actually capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. On a single fueling, it can fly 8,800 miles, and with aerial refueling, its range is virtually infinite. On August 1, 1994, two 2nd Bomb Wing B-52Hs flew the first around-the-world bombing mission, taking 47.2 hours to complete their circumnavigation of the globe, the longest ever jet flight.

And, as I can testify, in very tight quarters. The airmen who showed us around the B-52 allowed us to stick our heads up inside the personnel area to see just how tight that space was. But that wasn’t all we learned about the B-52. These huge planes have incredible technical capacities, indicative of, as one proud sergeant put it, “IT on steroids”. The gentlemen we spoke with included those responsible for arming the aircraft with the 20 cruise missiles it can carry. “We hang the bang” boasts the banner on the wall of their hangar. It’s a careful and cautious process, hanging the six missiles per wing along with the eight in the bomb bay. To join one of these crews takes an extra month of specialist training and nerves of steel. A single scratch means the (very expensive) missile has to be replaced. These four-man crews actually compete in an annual Global Strike Challenge (using concrete duplicates rather than real bombs) to test proficiency in this extremely dangerous task. So important is their teamwork that they are deployed as a team, not as individuals.

That’s not strictly a hypothetical. These planes fly a variety of missions, including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air, and maritime operations. B-52s have performed in every single geographic command in the world over the last two years. They have flown 774 combat sorties against ISIS alone. You can see the justifiable pride in these young airmen’s eyes.

Women Join the Force

While those young airmen reminded me of the polite yet confident young men who used to visit our family farm, they also reminded me that in my earliest years, I also visited young men on the base. Not long after I was born, my two military uncles took me to the base to introduce me to many of their and my father’s friends. They often joked with me later that I was the only female to have been in the men’s barracks. It was strictly a “boy’s club” in those days.
-Author’s personal reflections

My, how things have changed. Women are a regular presence in the Air Force now and the young Airman who checked me in at the North Gate was a woman. That is not to say that women haven’t been serving in the Air Force for a while, as they were there even before it became the Air Force. It was in February of 1943 that the first class of Army Nurse Corps flight nurses, “Winged Angels” graduated and went on to serve in combat, performing their duties aboard aircraft used for the evacuation of the wounded. Of the 500 who served in World War II, seventeen were killed in combat. Meanwhile, stateside, women were serving as Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. They flew U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft on non-combat missions. Another women’s aviator unit, the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, or WAFS, also transported planes overseas. These two groups were merged into a single WASP program in August of 1943. Of the 25,000 women who applied for pilot training in the program, 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 graduated. However, the program was disbanded in December 1944.

Do Not Pet

So say the collars around the necks of the military working dogs that patrol Barksdale AFB. It was hard to resist my natural instincts to croon “puuupppy” and extend my hand to Jason, the five-year-old Dutch Shepherd we met at a demonstration, but another look in his steely eyes convinced me to keep my paws to myself. MWDs (military working dogs) like Jason are typically raised and trained at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, which is also where their handlers go to train. Certain breeds are favored, including German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherds. After the initial adoption, the dogs live with foster families until the training program begins when they’re 18-24 months old. The training program itself will take another 120 days.

During that time, they learn all the basic commands—down, sit, stay —memorizing both hand and speech commands. Once these are mastered they are taught more advanced techniques like patrol work,
detection, and more. Then they are paired with a handler and the work of bonding begins until the two work as a well-oiled team. The one complaint our handler offered was that, while army handlers are transferred along with their dogs, in the Air Force when the handler is transferred, his original partner stays behind and he is assigned a new dog at the new base.

Nonetheless, it’s obvious there’s a tight bond between Jason and his new partner, though they’ve only been together a month at this point. Our two human guides, Jason’s trainer and handler, give us a very graphic demonstration of Jason’s skills at taking down and holding any would-be intruders onto the base. As Sergeant Ferrigno, the trainer, explains, the dogs are in many ways a more effective deterrent than guns. You might be willing to face a bullet, taking your chances on the aim of the shooter, but there’s no doubt that one of these dogs could chow down on your tender parts. Certain dogs are also trained to sniff out explosives and drugs. The first were deployed to search the vehicles transporting President George W. Bush when he landed at Barksdale on 9/11.

Dogs serve for varying lengths of time, but eventually, like the Airmen they work with, they retire, frequently adopted by one of their former handlers. They certainly earn their right for a rest and a chance to receive a scratch behind the ears from all and sundry. At long last, perhaps it will be all right for the humans they encounter to give them a pet.

In 1948, when the Army Air Corps became the U.S. Air Force, the Women’s Air Force (WAFs) was established. Originally, it was limited to 4,000 enlisted women and 300 officers who performed purely ground duty rules, mostly clerical and medical, but were not allowed to train as pilots. Fortunately, in 1976 when women were accepted into the USAF on an equal basis with men, the WAF program was ended and women were allowed to train in all areas. That same year, the Air Force selected the first woman reservist for the undergraduate pilot training program, and the Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), then based at Barksdale, selected the first woman aviator for Test Pilot School. In 1986, for the first time in history, the Air Force Academy’s top graduate was a woman. Despite some people’s continuing reservations about women serving in combat, at the end of the War in the Persian Gulf (1990-91) in which 40,000 American military women had been deployed, Congress repealed the laws banning women from flying in combat.

In March of 1992, a group of plane and personnel from Barksdale flew to Dyagilevo Air Base near Ryazan, Russia, the first time American bombers had landed in Russia since World War II. One of the pilots for this mission was Captain Diane M. Byrne. In 1995, 2nd Lieutenant Kelly J. Flynn became the first woman B-52 pilot in Air Force history. She trained at Barksdale, but was later assigned to Minot AFB in North Dakota. On December 18, 1998, 1st Lieutenant Cheryl A. Lamoureux, a 20th Bomb Squadron electronic warfare officer, became the first woman flier in Air Force history to fly a combat mission. And in 1993, Sheila E. Widnall became the 18th Secretary of the Air Force, the first woman to take the oath of office as the secretary of any of the armed forces. The current secretary is Heather Wilson and other notable female leaders are General Janet C. Wolfenbarger, the Air Force’s first female four-star general, and Major Nicole Malachowski who, in 2006, became the first woman pilot on the precision flying team, the Air Force Thunderbirds. Today, women make up 19% of all USAF military personnel and 30.5 percent of all civilian personnel. Of the 328,423 active duty personnel, 62,316 are women, with 712 female pilots, 259 navigators, and 183 air battle managers.

These strides forward have not been without their problems, and law suits and scandals have too often paved the way for changes in the status quo. Barksdale, like other Air Force establishments, is determined to provide an efficient and fair working environment for all who work on the base. One of the means for doing this is the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program which works to eliminate unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment against military members, family members, and retirees. As media accounts of sexual harassment in the armed forces proliferated, special steps were created to deal with the issue at Barksdale and other bases. The hope is always to be able to resolve the problem at the lowest level, so victims have the option of informal or formal complaints. An informal complaint is handled by the individual directly confronting the offender, requesting the intervention of a coworker, or using the chain of command to resolve the problem. If that does not redress the issue, then the complainant may move on to a formal complaint with the MEO. A staff member will assess the allegation and forward it to the legal office for review, where a lawyer will be assigned to the victim, and to the offender’s commander for actions deemed appropriate. But the strongest message the Air Force has chosen to send is designed, not so much to correct these problems, as to prevent them. The MEO provides a directive that a professional atmosphere does not allow for discriminatory behaviors that could degrade the mission and states, “It must be everyone’s policy, not because the Air Force requires it, but because everyone believes in the principles of the Air Force equal opportunity policy.” And one of the best things about the Air Force is the opportunity it provides for so many young people.

Barksdale Personnel Highlight

The Air Force consists of thousands of ambitious young men and women who viewed it as a promising road to their future. Some joined for educational possibilities, for the chance of travel, for an opportunity to excel in the technological advances constantly sough by the military. Others joined to escape a life that offered much less promise, more obstacles, that denied them a positive role in deciding their own future. Here, in their own words, are the stories of five of these young Airmen and just why they joined the U.S. Air Force.

Senior Airman Jennifer Raad

2nd Force Support Squadron

My name is SrA Jennifer Raad and I am from the 2nd Force Support Squadron. I am the Wing Formal Training Manager and I handle all TDYs, re-trainings, and Enlisted Military Professional Education (EMPE) for all military members on the base. I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. I am the oldest of 5 children and, being the oldest, my mother relied on me for a lot. You can imagine the amount of stress I had to deal with as a young child. It was during that time that I discovered my passion for basketball and hoped to one day play for the WNBA. Unfortunately, a few things derailed me from that dream. My constant injuries and personal problems at home were a major factor. Also, my mother struggled financially so tuition wasn’t an option.

It was then I decided to join the Air Force reserve so I could continue my education. During my time in the reserves, I worked alongside Active Duty members and became so passionate about the Air Force that I wanted to do it full-time. I applied for the Prior Service program in 2015 but unfortunately was denied. I refused to let another one of my dreams slip away so I applied for the program again, finally got accepted, and now I’m working full time in the world’s greatest Air Force.

Airman 1st Class Nicholas B. Jordan

2nd Bomb Wing Command Post

My name is Airman First Class Nicholas Jordan. I was born in Illinois, but raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Joining the Air Force was a spur of the moment decision. After high school, my life had abruptly hit a brick wall. I tried working in a factory, but the long hours, poor working conditions, and task repetitiveness made the job a nightmare. I left factory life and enrolled in college. In college, I struggled to find my way as well. After switching majors three times and getting in debt, I dropped out. Then one day I found myself in a recruiter’s office. I enlisted that day and haven’t looked back since. I never committed to anything in my life, but I’m happy to have committed to this.

Senior Airman Jamal T. Walker

2nd Communications Squadron

My name is SrA Jamal Walker. I am from the 2nd Communication Squadron, Knowledge Management section where we deal with SharePoint, Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act, publications and records. Originally, I am from Chicago, Illinois. I enlisted in the United States Air Force to remove myself from the violent environment of my city. I saw what my friends were turning to, and turning into, and I decided I wanted more for myself. Although I wanted a different environment, northern Louisiana is not quite what I had in mind! However, my commander encouraged me to bloom where I was planted. Two years removed from technical training and I have grown to love this big base and small city. If given a choice, I wouldn’t change a thing. When I am not managing records, I’m making them. I rap, DJ, and host shows in the local community as well. But I am not the only one who has blossomed here, team Barksdale as a whole truly has bloomed where it has been planted!

Airman 1st Class Caprishia T. Woods

2nd Munitions Squadron

My name is Caprishia Woods and I work in the Commander’s Support Staff for the 2nd Munitions Squadron. Basically they build bombs and I handle the paperwork for it. Originally, I am from Jackson Tennessee. Early life for me consisted of me growing up on a farm. To help you understand how it was, I even had a pet pig who lived in the house with me. I am the oldest girl of five siblings. My mother developed a drug addiction when I was six years old, which is what drove me to eventually join the Air Force. I wanted to be a positive example for my siblings to look up to. Currently I am working on my associates degree and I also plan to enroll in the NECP program later in my career.

Airman 1st Class Ashteen L. Macabeo

2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron

I am A1C Ashteen Layla Macabeo. I am a vehicle operator in the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron. I transport everything, from people to cargo, swiftly with maximum efficiency while upholding the integrity of precision and excellence to accomplish the mission of the 2 Bomb Wing. I am originally from the Philippines. At the age of nine, my family moved to North Western China, by the border with Russia, and at 15 we moved to the states.

I joined the Air Force for multiple reasons, however one of the biggest was because of an experience I had when I was living in China. At 14 years old, the people in my town stood in the town square to protest for their rights and their freedom. However, with the nature of communism where freedom of speech, religion, or assembly did not (and still do not) exist, a civil unrest and riot broke out in my city. The Chinese army and others came in to put a stop to it. That day, I watched as the people in my town were killed and beaten. I watched my neighbors fight for their lives and I had to comfort my friends whose parents were taken away from them. After that, I was bent on wanting to fight back, but was unable because I was a child, a female, and a foreigner in their land. This caused me to grow up with the desire to become someone who would stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves and be a voice for those who do not have the freedom of speech.

This is my story, and part of what has brought me into the Air Force and to Barksdale Air Force Base.

Educating for the future

I’m treated to another “blast from the past” when Captain Caulk points out the Airmen Leadership School where young Airmen prepare to become non-commissioned officers (NCOs). On the wall of my office is a plaque shaped like a book which bears the inscription, “Leadership School, Barksdale AFB – Honor Graduate Award, A-1, William H. Butterworth”. My father. He had hoped the Air Force would eventually finance his education to become a lawyer. But when he, then a 23-year-old tech sergeant, died in a car crash before he had the chance to avail himself of the Air Force’s educational opportunities, I inherited that chance. In my senior year of high school, I found myself on the base in the office of a counselor who was responsible for deciding whether I was college material. After I took a battery of achievement and aptitude tests, we discussed my future. My counselor tried to convince me to train toward a career in art since my aptitude was especially high in that area. My father had been a gifted amateur artist, but while I may have inherited his interest, I have none of his talent. After I literally drew my counselor a picture, he allowed that I should major in English since my achievement test led in that area. I wish he could know that I ended up working as a writer in an art museum.
-Author’s personal reflections

Though many forget or are unaware of this aspect of service in the Air Force, it has provided the opportunity for many men and women who would otherwise not have been able to attain higher education. Part of the rationale for my father’s enlistment is that he hoped to become a lawyer. His own father was a coal miner with eight children, so college was something he would have to find a way to pay for on his own. The military offered a way to finance his future. The G.I. Bill which was enacted after World War II allowed many servicemen to obtain a college degree. However, in recent years, federal budget cuts have had a deleterious effect on the program and for a time Tuition Assistance for continuing education was discontinued. While some of this program was recently reinstated by Congress, this is another area in which MAC has sought to assist the young men and women of Barksdale and recently made a pledge of $100,000 to support a multi-year MAC scholarship program on base. This is used to support a five-year program providing $1,000 scholarships to 20 deserving Airmen each year.

Education has always been important on the base, not only for the service members, but also for their families. Approximately 800 families live on the base with 2,200 children of school age. The command at Barksdale and Bossier Superintendent of Schools Scott Smith have worked together to develop the best opportunities for these children. A recent Department of Justice consent decree makes it possible for the families on-base to choose the school within the district that they feel best meets their educational needs. In December, that included the re-zoning of Barksdale east side housing to include Haughton schools beginning in the summer of 2018. Bossier Parish also provides a full-time Military Student Coordinator to work with military families within the parish, both on and off base. Another exciting step forward is the possibility of establishing a Charter School on base.

April of 2018 was designated the Month of the Military Child by Bossier City to recognize the contribution that these children make to the nation, serving in their own way as significantly as their parents. Military children face issues that others are spared, including parent deployment, sometimes for long periods of time, struggling to reclaim a new normal after such deployments, and frequent moves with the resulting losses and reintegration as well. In support of the program, Bossier schoolchildren participate in Purple Up Day in the hope of raising awareness of and increasing support for our children and military families.

Operation Hero

One of those “military memories” of my childhood was a special telephone call to England. My uncle had been deployed to a base there and was gone for three years. This was before the Internet or Skype, and so we saved up for that very long-distance call that would allow us to hear my uncle’s tinny voice from far-away for a few moments. I was reminded of that years later when, at a school where I was teaching, we saluted our military families with students posing with their fathers and mothers who had recently returned from Afghanistan and would be soon re-deployed. there. Their faces held that mix of pride and apprehension that I will always associate with military children.
-Author’s personal reflections

Deployment is especially hard on children, particularly the younger ones who may have difficulty understanding why Mom and/or Dad disappear for months or even years on end. To help, Barksdale frequently has activities like Operation Hero” organized by the Airman & Family Readiness Center on September 23, 2017. Children underwent a mock deployment so they understood what their parents went through on a real-world deployment. On that day, they received a telephone “recall” ordering them to report to “Camp Kudos” at the Senior Airman Bryan R. Bell Fitness Center. Once there, they were issued identification cards, dog tags, t-shirts, and their very own mobility folder. Then they received a 2nd Bomb Wing Mission Briefing, were processed through a deployment line, and even took a mock physical. Some units, including those from Security Forces, the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit, and the Fire Department, provided demonstrations. In a fun and interactive learning environment, children had some of the stress and anxiety typically associated with deployment alleviated through a better understanding of the process. There are plans underway now for
“Operation Hero 2018”.

As a small child, I often accompanied my uncle on trips to the base when he needed to go to the Commissary or run other errands. I have to admit I was a bit envious of the many activities and spaces I saw on base for them. I was particularly enthralled by what the knowledgeable John Prime informed me are “Bermuda Bunkers”. These grass hillocks are actually underground weapons storage facilities designed to be invisible from the air. To me, they just looked like great fun for running up and rolling down.
-Author’s personal reflections

Needless to say, that area is not a playground and no kids go there. But there are plenty of other playgrounds for them to visit, as well as picnic areas and camping grounds. The base consists of more than 22,000 acres, 20,000 of which are devoted to a game preserve as well as opportunities for recreation. Military families can go horseback riding or play a variety of sports on fields designed for that purpose. There are five lakes on base for water sports, including fishing and boating. For “older kids” there are opportunities for both duck and deer hunting, and the base is one of the few places where it’s legal to hunt hawks (“bird strikes” are a constant danger for any sort of flight). If your pleasures are a bit more urban, the base also includes all the amenities of a small city: there’s a swimming pool, a gym and fitness center, a chapel, a library, a veterinary office, and a Youth Center, just to name a few.

None of which, of course, makes up for a missing parent.

The Prettiest In The Strong Of Army Posts From Alaska To Maine

That’s the way The Shreveport Times described Captain Norfleet C. Bone’s plan for Barksdale Field. Captain Bone was the landscape architect responsible for the design of the architecture and greenery of the original 36 acres that made up the living areas. He had a definite style in mind, commenting, “Barksdale Field… with its substantial buildings of the French provincial type so appropriately chosen for their community with its historical and geographical setting will, when completed, resemble a little French village.”

While many of his design choices affected the housing and administration buildings, Bone was equally precise about choosing the right plants, specifying that the materials used for “Barksdale
beautification” should consist of broadleaf and coniferous evergreen plants like holly, jasmine, abelia, pyracanthas, junipers, and cedars, as well as deciduous shrubs and trees including redbuds, dogwood, buddleia, crepe myrtle and others that thrive in this climate and locale. The trees that lined the streets were to be native varieties like oak, elm, and sweet gum, while the park areas would include regularly planted annuals for color.

The beauty of the base was also enhanced by the fact that there are no telephone poles or electrical wires visible to impede the view of architecture and greenery. Instead, all utilities at the post are buried underground, though more for reasons of security than aesthetics.

The one break with Captain Bone’s theme was the yellow-and-black checkerboard pattern painted onto the hangar roofs to make them more visible from the air at a time when air flight was still fairly primitive and pilots could easily get lost. However, when World War II came along, that visibility was seen as a liability and the roofs were painted over and have remained so since.

By the 1980s, as changes began to bring more modern (and often quite stark) buildings to the base, a movement began to restore the original landscaping and 1930s lay-out. In April of 1992, 250 original building at Barksdale were placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Today, any new construction must be of complementary architectural design criteria to be in or near the historic district. Barksdale remains, as Captain Bone hoped, “the prettiest in the string of [Air Force] posts from Alaska to Maine.”

The President is Landing at Barksdale!

The occasion of the school activity saluting Air Force personnel deployed to Afghanistan was the result of what we know refer to simply as “9/11”. I remember a fellow teacher coming to my classroom door and quietly informing me of the attack on the World Trade Center that morning. Later, we were all called to an assembly to inform everyone of the attack and to give anxious parents a chance to pick up their children if they wished. Just as the headmaster was starting to speak, a boy came running in and announced, “Hey, the president is landing at Barksdale!”
-Author’s personal reflections

At about the same time, President George W. Bush was stepping out of the hatch in the belly of Air Force One. It was a moment of high tension. In one of those coincidences that seem more typical of fiction than reality, Barksdale had already been in a practice THREATCON Delta, the highest threat condition. That morning, when first informed of the attack on the World Trade Center by an Airman, Lieutenant General Thomas Keck at first assumed it must be part of the exercise. Quickly apprised of the reality of the situation, he ordered a real THREATCON Delta and Barksdale went into lockdown. Crews hustled to their stations and most of those at the base assumed that the nation was at war.

Mock deployment for ‘mil kids’ during Operation Hero (Photo by by Ilka Cole)

When Keck received the radio request, Code Alpha, that indicated a high priority aircraft was incoming, he was also informed that it wanted 150,000 pounds of gas, 40 gallons of coffee, 70 box lunches, and 25 pounds of bananas. It didn’t take long for him to figure out that he was dealing with Air Force One and had twenty minutes to prepare for its arrival. Aboard Air Force One efforts were being made to keep the president’s whereabouts a secret. Reporters on board were even told to turn their phones off lest someone determine his location from their signals. However, as Air Force One made its descent into Barksdale, a local television crew filmed its landing. When U.S. Representative Adam Putnam called his wife, he told her, “I can’t tell you where I am.” She replied, “Oh, I thought you were in Barksdale. That’s what I saw on TV.”

As Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office descended from Air Force One, an Air Force Officer was waiting for him with a message: “See those planes? Every one is loaded with nukes—tell me where you want ‘em.” He indicated the row of B-52s in full operational mode, thanks to the morning’s “exercise”. Meanwhile, President Bush, who usually leaves bases in a special armored limousine flown ahead for him, found himself being escorted to a blue Dodge Caravan affectionately known around the base as “Soccer Mom”, which was accompanied by an unarmored Humvee with a standing gunner to guard the president’s transport. Military dogs thoroughly searched the van before he entered. As they sped away, Bush noted later it felt as if it “blasted off down the runway at what felt like 80 miles an hour. When the man behind the wheel started taking turns at that speed, I yelled, ‘Slow down, son, there are no terrorists on this base!” It was the first time Bush, who had been arguing with the Secret Service to return to Washington, expressed any concern about his personal safety.

Back at Air Force One, Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was trying to get the plane refueled, but a civilian argued with his crew that the fuel pits were only authorized for use in time of war. As Tillman recalled, “This Air Force master sergeant —God bless him—overhears this and roars, ‘We are at war!’, then whips out his knife and starts cutting open the cover.” While that was happening and for the time it was on the ground, Air Force One was guarded with armed Airmen with their guns drawn and a pack of military dogs patrolled the tarmac.

The president was anxious to speak to the nation at this frightening moment and after meeting with Keck and Colonel Curtis Bedke, commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, was taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force, He made phone calls to New York and Washington, and then worked with advisors to draft an appropriate short speech to the nation. Meanwhile, anxious Airmen were trying to create an equally appropriate space for it. They selected a conference room where they pulled up a podium and arranged several flags behind it. One anxious Airman was still atop a ladder replacing a light bulb when the president came into the room. Bush then made the famous “Faceless Cowards” statement: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards. And freedom will be defended. Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.”

The Mighty Deuce

The 2nd Bomb Wing is the heart and soul of Barksdale Air Force Base and, some could argue, of the Air Force itself. For it was there at the very beginning. Most people still failed to grasp the future of air power when a few brave souls began to add aviation to the tools of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. When organized on September 10, 1918, the unit that would eventually make Barksdale its home was called the 1st Day Bombardment Group and was based at Amanty Airdome, France. Their mission was to fly the French-built Berguet 14 and the DeHavilland DH-4 aircraft in a bombing mission during the St. Mihiel Offensive. Deactivated at the end of the war, the group was reorganized September 18, 1919 at Ellington Field, Texas. In July 1922, it was designated as the 2nd Bombardment Group and moved to Langley Field in Virginia.

For the twenty years between the wars, the 2nd Bomb Group went through several name changes and various aircraft. Throughout World War II, it flew a variety of combat missions, flying the B-17 bomber throughout Europe. After the war, the 2nd transferred to Chatham Air Force Base, near Savannah, Georgia. But, fortunately for the Ark-La-Tex, in April of 1963, the 2nd moved to Barksdale and took control of the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft. It underwent a slight name change in 1992, becoming the 2nd Bomb Wing. Two years later, two of its B-52H bombers flew the first around-the–world bombing mission, establishing the U.S. as the foremost nuclear superpower.

Obviously, the 2nd boasts a proud heritage, encapsulated in its wing emblem. Designed in the shape of the Air Force shield, the emblem bears five perpendicular stripes at the top. The colors, black and green, are those that the wing wore as part of the Army Air Service in World War I, with the green stripes representing the three major offensives the wing participated in—St. Mihiel, Lorraine, and Meuse-Argonne. A white fleur-de-lis symbolizes France, its home during World War I. The lower portion of the shield is in Air Force golden yellow with four aerial bombs delineated in ultramarine blue, representing both the original four combatant squadrons of World War I and the ongoing mission as a heavy bombardment wing of Air Combat Command. At the bottom it bears the unit’s motto: Libertatem Defendimus, “Liberty We Defend”.

In a moving speech, Colonel Ty Neuman, the Commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing and installation commander for Barksdale AFB, summed up the bond between his wing, his base, and the community:

Barksdale is leading the way in our command, breaking barriers each and every day, and ensuring the safety and well-being of the citizens of this great nation. While we have many challenges on the base to still overcome, you can rest assured we have the most dedicated Airmen in the Air Force working on them and they are supported by the most loyal community we could ever ask for. We are a determined force, ready, able and willing to execute our mission… anytime, anywhere. We are the Mighty Deuce – Proud to Serve.

After the speech, it occurred to those with him that the president hadn’t had anything to eat since that morning. They didn’t want to take him to the usual dining area since that could be a security risk. Instead, Lieutenant General Keck called his wife and informed her that he was bringing the president over for lunch. She replied with words to the effect of “pull the other one”. Keck assured her he was serious and that she had perhaps ten minutes to pull it together. He suggested she make some sandwiches. Back went Bush into “Soccer Mom” with his escort and a few minutes later he pulled up to the Keck house. Mrs. Keck, still wearing her bathrobe, stood in the doorway holding a plateful of sandwiches.

Two hours after he landed, Bush prepared to take off again, this time for Offutt Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Strategic Command which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. As he rode along the flight line, he passed the row of B-52 bombers and was given a thumbs-up by the assembled plane crews as military police saluted and other Air Force crew members cheered. As Air Force One lifted off from Barksdale’s runway, two F-16 fighter jets pulled up alongside to escort it. No one who was there that day will forget it—especially Mrs. Keck.

It wasn’t the first time Barksdale made history, nor will it be the last. That grass and dirt landing field and 1,500 men that characterized Barksdale in 1933 have grown to a 13,758 feet concrete runway, and a population of 7,600 active duty and reserve personnel. In addition, 20,900 Air Force retirees live in the area. It’s home to one of only fourteen Air Force 4-Star Generals, and largest of the eight Global Strike Force commands. The base is constantly being upgraded and updated, whether adding new technology to its B-52s (slated to last until at least 2050) or coordinating the project to create a new I-20/I-220 interchange giving increased access to the base without the dangers and restrictions of military materials passing through residential areas or, worse still, delayed or cut off by passing trains. Once completed, the I-220 loop interchange will descend directly onto the base at I-20 near Louisiana Downs. In addition to better access to the base, the expansion will likely create at least 300-400 new jobs.

The partnership between the base and the people of northwest Louisiana will also continue to deepen and grow. The men and women at the base efficiently and effectively maintain their mission of nuclear deterrence, supporting America’s efforts to defend liberty at home, and, when possible, maintain peace abroad. And when that’s not possible, they are prepared for whatever may be required of them. We sleep better at night because they are there to check for (altogether too real) monsters under the bed and to make sure that there is always a light somewhere in the darkness. In return, we can make sure that young Airmen know they are welcome in our community, that resources and consideration are readily available for the families of those deployed, that their children will receive a good education and hope for the future whatever comes, and that, as diligent citizens, we will pay attention to how our military is used and treated by our government. With these steps, our partnership will remain as strong at the end of the 21st century as it has been since that dedication day 85 years ago in the 20th century.