Barksdale's 307th reserve unit is taking off into the history books by becoming the first group of its kind ever certified to handle nuclear weapons. "Providing a safe secure and effective nuclear arsenal is our number one priority," says Col. Jonathan Ellis who is the Commander of the 307th BW. "Failure is not an option. We have no choice but to do this right."
And they did! Ellis says the group passed this week's INSI or Initial Nuclear Surety Inspection with flying colors. Now they are fully capable of supporting any mission here on Barksdale and beyond.
But getting to this point meant tackling several obstacles unique to reserve units. Mainly, officials had to find a way to keep track of airmen who have high security clearance but aren't here every day. "That monitoring was a significant challenge," Ellis says.
The group also needed reservists who could dedicate more time to training. Lt Col Denis Heinz says instead of spending one weekend a month here, his group trains at least five days, "that was one of the things that kept the reserves out of the nuclear game, whether of not they could make this commitment."
Once officials found the right people for the job, they teamed up with 2nd Bomb Wing airmen who helped train crews on nuclear weapons. "This is one of the things you can't do without 2nd Bomb Wing, getting these people ready, training, certification has taken a lot of team effort," Ellis says. All that teamwork is what Ellis and his group credits with helping load teams pull of a flawless inspection. "I hope we set the standard for them to integrate others. It was the best seen to date as far as zero errors so we're hoping we helped everyone else out going forward," adds MSgt James Hudson who leads that team of bomb loaders.
Leaders believe this is just another step toward bettering the Air Force's nuclear mission. And with the reserves on board, they say it offers the chance for more leadership and consistency within the program, "unlike active duty who are here two to three years and leave, those guys will be here flying B-52s for another five to ten years and that experience will not leave," Heinz says.