Missouri Air Force Unit Takes Battle to Terrorists
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2001 B-2 Spirit bomber pilots and support crews are carrying the fight for freedom directly to terrorists in their Afghan lairs, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told 509th Bomb Wing troops Oct. 19 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Przybyslawski, wing commander, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, and U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton stood next to Rumsfeld as he thanked about 2,000 service members who gathered to hear his message.
"Through you, the American heartland strikes back. And through your efforts, we will create conditions necessary for victory," Rumsfeld said.
B-2 crews have flown several sorties against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets inside Afghanistan since the military campaign began Oct. 7, Rumsfeld noted. The B-2 is a stealthy "flying wing" aircraft that has a two-pilot crew and a 6,000-mile range. Sorties from Whiteman to Afghanistan and back have taken 40 hours or more.
"Your mission is difficult and it is dangerous," he said. "Our enemies live in caves and hide in shadows. Finding them and rooting them out is no simple task. It will take patience, time and steadiness of purpose."
While praising wing members, Rumsfeld added that the terrorists who orchestrated the Sept. 11 assaults on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon represent a new threat against America and its ideals.
"Our people and way of life have come under an unprecedented attack by a new and dangerous enemy," he said. "Americans are grateful -- and proud -- to know that brave men and women stand ready to defend their freedom -- when it has been so brutally and violently challenged.
"On behalf of the president, and a grateful people, I thank you for all you do -- and do so well."
Rumsfeld said the terrorists want to scare Americans, so "we can no longer walk out of our homes."
"They want us to respond by curtailing our freedoms -- to withdraw -- terrorized. We will not do so," he emphasized.
Americans and other freedom-loving people around the globe must "either change the way we live, or we must change the way" the terrorists live, Rumsfeld said.
"We choose the latter, and you are the ones who will help achieve that goal," he added, noting that victory over global terrorism "means liquidating the ... networks and putting them out of business."
The B-2 is a $1.3-billion aircraft that has been in service since 1993. Whiteman, the Air Force's only B-2 base, is named after U.S. flier Lt. George A. Whiteman, shot down and killed in his P-40 fighter plane in defending Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack.