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Ellsworth B-1 WSO takes off to new horizons

Captain Aaron Tindall, a weapons system officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, poses in front of a B-1 bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., August 5, 2016. Tindall was the only officer from Ellsworth selected to participate in a joint training program with the U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers, focusing on electronic warfare. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

Captain Aaron Tindall, a weapons system officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, poses in front of a B-1 bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., August 5, 2016. Tindall was the only officer from Ellsworth selected to participate in a joint training program with the U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers, focusing on electronic warfare. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Denise M. Jenson)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Recently, U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers conducted electronic attack training in the Powder River Training Complex, marking the first time the Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129), stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey, Washington, travelled to Ellsworth to utilize its local airspace.

Not long before they arrived, one of Ellsworth’s own was chosen to eventually join the squadron as part of a competitive exchange program.

In June, Captain Aaron Tindall, a B-1 bomber weapon systems officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, was notified that he was selected for the program, leaving to train with the Growlers the following January.

“Back in April of 2015, I had heard there was an opening, so I called Lt. Col. Kramer, who was the [34th BS] commander at the time and told him I was interested, so he submitted my name,” Tindall said.

Historically, the Air Force had its own electronic warfare aircraft, but after divesting its aircraft in 1995, the Office of the Secretary of Defense directed that electronic warfare airmen be embedded with the U.S. Navy’s EA-6B Prowlers, and now EA-18G Growlers. Under a memorandum of understanding between the Air Force and Navy, select Air Force weapons system officers and pilots continue to embed on Navy electronic warfare missions through the exchange program.

The training is approximately 10 to 12 months, with two months of academics and simulators, and focuses on electronic warfare, an ability that allows aircraft to access denied environments. After completing training in the VAQ-129, participants are typically assigned to a naval air station for one or two years.

“When I was told I was accepted, my wife and I were both very happy,” Tindall said. “Being able to do training like this is something that diversifies you and separates you from your peers. It’s a different and fun challenge. Plus, there’s a pretty special family tie, as my dad and both grandfathers were in the Navy.”

Tindall said although the missions for both aircraft are different, several training scenarios for the B-1 include the use of the EA-18G Growler, saying they are a needed asset in strikes against certain adversaries.

“I’m really looking forward to specializing in the defensive side of things,” Tindall said. “I’ve loved the opportunities given to me during my time at Ellsworth, and I hope to be back with the B-1 in the future with the added expertise and skills set.”