With the new year ahead, Ellsworth Airmen reflect on 2015

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
As the new year approaches, it's a good time to look back at the memories Team Ellsworth made throughout the year -- and there are a lot of them!

The 28th Bomb Wing deployed Airmen to Southwest Asia in support of U.S. Central Command operations, brought Airmen home, and welcomed the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Army Golden Knights to the base's largest airshow in five years. The Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration approved the Powder River Training Complex, providing Ellsworth's B-1s and other aircraft in the region an efficient and improved airspace to conduct training operations. The Airmen here also welcomed in a new commander and command chief to lead the team.

And, not to be forgotten, the wing transitioned to Air Force Global Strike Command and launched the first ever Large Force Exercise in the newly opened PRTC.

This past year is one to remember; for a quick rundown and links to the top stories check out the highlights from each month below. Ellsworth Airmen are looking forward to continuing their legacy of providing combat airpower anywhere in the world, anytime, in 2016.

Top story for 2015 - 34th, 37th Bomb Squadrons drop bombs, set records for 2015 - Combat operations hit an all-time high in 2015 as both the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons, as well as Airmen from the wing's maintenance group and other support personnel, broke records during downrange deployments!

January - Airmen deploy in support of CENTCOM operations - During the month of January, more than 350 Airmen deployed to Southwest Asia and the Air Force approved the proposed the PRTC, an expansion on the previous Powder River military operations area.

February - Ops tempo, modernization focus of State of Ellsworth address - Col. Kevin Kennedy, former 28th Bomb Wing commander, spoke with local media outlets during a State of Ellsworth address, providing updates on recent and ongoing deployments and the modernization of Air Force assets.

March - Red Flag 15-2 offers Team Ellsworth invaluable combat training experience - In March, Ellsworth's B-1s participated in Red Flag 15-2 alongside 12 different Air Force squadrons and a unit from the Marine Corps, United Arab Emirates and Norway!

April - 12 AF Commander addresses Team Ellsworth - Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland, 12th Air Force commander, visited Ellsworth for two days in April, meeting with all members of the base to thank them for executing the mission and serving their country. During his time on base, the general focused on interacting with Airmen and seeing first-hand how they excel every day. Also, the Air Force announced the realignment of its bomber fleet under one major command, Air Force Global Strike Command, effective Oct. 1, 2015.

May - Veterans, Ellsworth Airmen gather to remember fallen - During one of the wing's most eventful months, May, local Korean and Vietnam War veterans and their families were invited to the base for a B-1 bomber and munitions display and a Memorial Day retreat ceremony to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. In addition, the wing participated in Green Flag 15-07, an exercise designed to test aircrew and supporting personnel's ability survive and operate in a wartime environment. Lastly, the South Dakota National Guard's 82nd Civil Support Team, one of Ellsworth's tenant units, hosted an open house to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

June - New commander at the helm - As one chapter ends, another begins. The base bid farewell to Col. Kevin Kennedy and his family, and welcomed Col. Gentry Boswell, and his family, as the new 28th Bomb Wing commander. Additionally, the 31st annual Golden Coyote exercise brought Air Force, Army and Navy personnel, along with personnel from four different countries, together to test combat skills and overseas operation contingencies.

July - Ellsworth sends first B-1 for IBS upgrade - The 28th Bomb Wing sent its first aircraft to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, for an Integrated Battle Station modification July 1, marking the end of the B-1 bomber's analog cockpit displays. The upgrade also connected the B-1 to a modernized global communications network! Later that month, Team Ellsworth came together, welcoming home the 34th BS from a deployment to Southwest Asia and sent off the 37th BS to continue the mission.

August - 2015 Dakota Thunder airshow takes off - Dakota Thunder roars! Not only did the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights grace the Black Hills community with their presence at the 2015 Dakota Thunder Airshow and Open House, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had the opportunity to witness a high-speed flyover down Main Street. Ellsworth B-1 bombers also showcased the airframe's incredible capability, Combat Air Support, at the airshow with a show of force that wowed the crowd!

September - Ellsworth bids farewell to command chief, honors his 30 years of service - September was the month of goodbyes. After 30 years and many assignments the previous command chief retired, Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Peterson, spent time with his family and friends saying farewell to those who had served alongside him throughout his career. The 12th Air Force commander, Gen. Chris Nowland, also hosted an all call, bidding farewell to Ellsworth as it prepared to transition from Air Combat Command to Air Force Global Strike Command and 8th Air Force in October.

October - Ellsworth realigns to Air Force Global Strike Command - As the base settled into the fourth and final quarter of 2015, Ellsworth kept up a steady pace. The wing transitioned from ACC and 12th AF and into AFGSC and 8th AF, realigning all bomber bases under one unified command. Additionally, the base staged its alert pad for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which, so far, has provided more than 50 manufactured homes for victims of heavy rain and flooding on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Also, the Ellsworth family welcomed Chief Master Sgt. Sonia Lee and her family as the new 28th BW command chief. Finally, Airmen from across the base competed in the annual Global Strike Challenge, with winners announced at a score posting event at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Oct. 21. Congratulations go to Ellsworth's top performer, Airman 1st Class Jakob Meaney, 28th Security Forces Squadron response force member, who won Best Security Forces M4 Shooter during the challenge.

November - 34th Bomb Squadron launches Combat Hammer exercise - With 2015 coming to a close, Ellsworth's operations tempo only increased. The 34th BS took part in a Combat Hammer exercise, with aircrews employing a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range munition, the first time the 34th has ever done so. Ellsworth also renamed its Mission Employment Center in honor of the late Maj. Gen. Joseph D. Brown, a former wing commander, and hosted a POW/MIA 24-hour run. The 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron also put together a shadowbox for retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, one of the two surviving Doolittle Raiders, in honor of his 100th birthday (Sept. 7). The box was presented to Cole during a special ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes Nov. 5.

December - B-1s, KC-135 launch for first LFE in PRTC - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Earlier this month, Ellsworth launched the first Large Force Exercise in the newly expanded Powder River Training Complex, provided free Christmas trees to families of deployed Airmen and lit the base Christmas tree at the Freedom Chapel. Col. Boswell and Chief Master Sgt. Sonia Lee also hosted an all call, focusing on winter and holiday safety.