Five years ago, a phone rang in the 28th Bomb Wing vice commander’s office, and that exchange led to Ellsworth AFB making history–and on a grand scale. The end result became the first time the Rockwell (Boeing) B-1B Lancer launched from the continental United States to support overseas combat operations. It was how Operation Odyssey Dawn kicked off: in the middle of a blizzard!

On March 27, 2011, more than 1,100 maintenance personnel launched four B-1B Lancer bombers from the Ellsworth Air Force Base flightline in blizzard conditions to support Operation Odyssey Dawn. It was the first time the aircraft had ever launched from a continental U.S. location in support of combat operations.

Two B-1s and their eight-person crew would continue on and strike targets in Libya; however, the mission required communication and personnel working round-the-clock to be executed.

“I was about halfway through the planning process (of a training sortie), and rumors were making their way around about base leadership convening at the command post,” said Maj. Matthew, a weapons system officer for the operation’s lead B-1. “At about 1 p.m., I was called to the command post with a pilot in my squadron. We were both qualified mission commanders, which clued me in that whatever was going on was likely a real-world event.”

Airman Michael Doto, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapon systems technician, steadies a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition while preparing to load it on a B-1B Lancer on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011. B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing launched early Sunday, March 27 to strike targets in Libya from their home station of Ellsworth Air Force Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)
Airman Michael Doto, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapon systems technician, steadies a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition while preparing to load it on a B-1B Lancer on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011. B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing launched early Sunday, March 27 to strike targets in Libya from their home station of Ellsworth Air Force Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

Matthew and many aviators within the 34th and 37th bomb squadrons, as well as maintenance and munitions personnel, were briefed that preparations were underway to organize a strike mission more than 6,000 miles away in Libya.

In less than 20 hours, the conventional munitions element built approximately 145 munitions, enough to load seven B-1s. On the aviation side of the base, aircrews were preparing for takeoff.

“We had the pre-brief, and flew a practice profile in the simulator as well to make sure everyone on the crew had the opportunity to practice the bomb runs,” said Maj. Christopher, co-pilot for the operation’s lead B-1. “The biggest thing going through my mind was trying to absorb every bit of information so that we didn’t mess it up.”

The rest of this incredible story can be viewed in its entirety right here.
(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

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