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B-1s arrive, members reminisce

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Exactly 20 years ago, the first B-1 arrived at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Since then, the base has seen remarkable transformations. We asked servicemembers and civilian personnel to share their memories. Their answers are below.

What was your job title when the B-1s arrived? Currently?
Ms. Janice Goen
- I was the weather detachment secretary now I'm the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron secretary.
Ms. Rita Dupres
- I was the military family housing office secretary, today I am the 28th Maintenance Group resource advisor.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dingus
- I was instrument, flight controls and autopilot apprentice. Now I'm the 28th Aircraft Maintenance production supervisor.

What was the pulse of the base when the B-1s arrived?
Ms. Janice Goen
- Change was the name of the game. It was very stressful for everyone. We went from having B-52s, tankers, helicopters, missiles - assets that made us headquarters for 12th Air Division for a short time with Brig. Gen. Thad Wolf heading the team. These were going away and the B-1s were coming.
Ms. Rita Dupres
-It was exciting, we were a wing of more than 7,000 people because of the missiles. We were looking forward to getting a General as the wing commander, all eyes were on the skies when the B-1s rolled in.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dingus
- People were eager to learn about the new jet; it was new and different. People downtown wanted to know what was making all that noise.

How did people react on base and in the community?
Ms. Janice Goen
-Everyone was excited and awed by this sleek new machine. I believe there was a lot of skepticism on whether this new plane could do the job the B-52 did.

How has the B-1 mission impacted Ellsworth? The local area?
Ms. Janice Goen
- There is definitely pride in having the B-1 at the back door because of the B-1s' contributions to the global war on terrorism. I feel the Black Hills community is very supportive of the families of those that deploy to support the B-1 mission.
Ms. Rita Dupres
-Positively. We were a strong work force. There was a year wait for military family housing.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dingus
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The B-1 is the greatest bomber built. It won the cold war as a nuclear deterrent and now is filling the conventional role better than anyone expected. The B-1's impact on Ellsworth is that I think we are the busiest bomber wing in the Air Force because of the greatness of the jet and the people who support it. Because of our mission the local community fought to keep this base open.

What has been the top B-1 story you've seen/heard since their arrival?
Ms. Janice Goen
- When they thought they bombed the location of Saddam Hussien.
Ms. Rita Dupres
-The crash at the range, and the death of our vice commander and the crew during the low-range flying mission.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dingus
- The change in the way the B-1 is presented in the media. In the early days I thought we received very negative coverage. This platform now receives positive coverage because it, and the great people who support it, carry out whatever mission is assigned.

Do you remember any particular experiences/moments with the B-1 in 1986?
Ms. Janice Goen
- I was standing on the flat roof of the base operations building with others from the weather detachment taking pictures of this strange looking plane. At the time I thought it looked like a bat ... until the B-2 came on line.
Ms. Rita Dupres
- It was incredibly loud, especially after it passed. The nails in Renel Heights (across from the convenient store by the main gate) housing were coming out of the walls due to the new sounds in the air.

Do you have any specific stories of interest about the B-1/crews/support personnel during the last 20 years?
Ms. Janice Goen
-I was working in weather when a B-1 crashed at the south end of our runway. Fortunately there were no deaths. It was snowing when it happened.
I also remember the crash at Powder River in Mountain that killed four crewmen including our vice wing commander, Col. Anthony Beat, a much loved and respected man. I was working at the family support center at the time and we were very involved in the Crisis Intervention Stress Management team in helping people cope with the tragedy. We also worked directly and extensively with the families of the victims, including a fiancé. It was a very tough time for everyone ... something that will never be forgotten.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Dingus
- I could go on with stories from the first nighttime sorties, the first overseas deployment, the first time the aircraft broke enemy airspace, the first terrain following sorties, the first true Air Expeditionary Force in the Air Force, the first alert aircraft, etc.