Honorary Commanders get firsthand look at Raider mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Hannah Malone
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Members of the Ellsworth Honorary Commander Program witnessed the mission being accomplished by the Raiders of the 28th Bomb Wing during an immersion tour Aug. 25, 2023.

The tour, comprised of 44 civic leaders and base commanders, was intended to connect new members of the program with their respective leaders. The Honorary Commander program allows the base to bolster awareness of its mission and increase military involvement in civic outreach opportunities.

The tour started with lunch and a 28th Bomb Wing Unit Mission Briefing led by Col. Joshua Wiitala, the 28th Bomb Wing deputy commander. The brief educated the audience on Raider culture and history, explained the base mission and outlined future operations for the upcoming arrival of the B-21 Raider.

“Engagements like this strengthen the relationship we enjoy with our neighbors throughout the Black Hills,” Wiitala said. “These are essential to the wing’s success in both our current mission and as we look to the future. Partnerships like the Ellsworth Honorary Commander program provide a way to share information about our mission with key community leaders while simultaneously promoting base involvement outside the Ellsworth gates.”

Wiitala added that the two-way communication was immensely valuable.

“I am new on the job and learned a lot from our Honorary Commanders as we got a chance to visit our Airmen around the installation and give our community leaders the opportunity to witness firsthand what a talented group we have here at Ellsworth,” he said.

The group then moved to the 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog facility for a demonstration that allowed everyone to see firsthand the rigorous training and detailed proficiency of the trainers and their canine partners.  A few volunteers even donned the bite training suit to experience what an attack would feel like.

Military working dog handlers and their canine companions support the 28th SFS mission of providing integrated defense and combat capability to Ellsworth and the Air Force worldwide. They support the local community by assisting with explosive detection for the western region of South Dakota and collaborating with agencies like the South Dakota Highway Patrol and Rapid City Police Department.

The 28 SFS MWD facility often hosts tours for the public to provide insight into their roles and capabilities.

“These tours can build a better relationship between the local military population and the public, promoting transparency and a sense of shared purpose,” said Staff Sgt. John Cammarata, 28th SFS Military Working Dog section kennel master. “Lastly, such demonstrations and tours serve as an educational opportunity highlighting the training, veterinarian care, and importance to various operations worldwide.” 

The next stop on the tour was the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal range. Guests talked with EOD technicians, learned about the vital role the squadron plays, had the opportunity to see and handle the vast array of equipment the team utilizes and also witnessed explosives detonated on the training range.

Aside from supporting the base, the 28th CES EOD unit also responds to calls for support in the local community, lending a hand in keeping the Black Hills safe from threats.

The final destination was a static munitions and B-1B Lancer display. The group attended an overall tour of the aircraft and munitions led by 34th Bomb Squadron aircrew, as well as 28th Munitions Squadron Airmen.

“The B-1 is just incredible,” said Brendyn Medina, Rapid City Police Department community relations director and 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron honorary commander. “This tour really showcased why the B-1 is the backbone of America’s bomber fleet. We are all grateful for the opportunity to come on base and learn what the Airmen here are doing daily to ensure our country’s freedoms.”

The Ellsworth Honorary Commander Program provides opportunities to engage with local, state, and national civil leaders who grasp the importance of the base mission and can articulate why long-range strike is critical to the peer adversarial competition the nation faces today.

As the 28th Bomb Wing prepares for the arrival of the B-21 Raider, along with the increase of support personnel that comes with it, it is imperative that base leaders continue to educate local civic leaders on the current and future mission so Raiders can continue to win today and dominate tomorrow.

For more information about the Ellsworth Honorary Commander program, contact the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs office at (605) 385-5056.