Fighters Make Movies. The B-52 Makes History

The Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts hosted a presentation about a little known, but important, piece of military history Friday, March 31 from one of the men who took part in it. On the morning of January 16th, 1991, seven B-52G bombers took off from Barksdale Air Force Base for a 35.4 hour mission that took them halfway around the world in the first use of the B-52 in combat since the Vietnam War. It was also a record for longest conventional combat sortie that was to stand until 2003. When they returned to Barksdale, they had fired the opening shots of Desert Storm, a fact that was to remain secret for a year, and remains little known today, over thirty years after the flight. The bombers unleashed 35 of the then new and untested Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile on Iraqi command and control and communications facilities, leaving enemy commanders unable to respond effectively to coalition attacks.

The students got to hear the story of the “Secret Squirrel”, so informally named as the actual name of the operation “Senior Surprise” was in itself classified, mission from one of the people who was part of it. Warren Ward, a retired USAF Colonel now serving as the Chief of Staff & Director of Operations for the Louisiana Tech Research Institute in Ruston, gave a talk on the historic mission and his role in it as the pilot of Doom-33, one of the seven bombers in the mission.

Col. Ward showed the route the bombers flew from Louisiana to the skies over the battlefield. He told about some of the challenges the aircrews faced such as a Libyan fighter coming up to investigate as they flew past and an Egyptian air defense system noticing them. There were also challenges presented by the massive amounts of fuel needed from refueling tankers, especially as the bombers faced headwinds coming home. The Secret Squirrel bombing mission destroyed the ability of Iraqi commanders to effectively react to the upcoming liberation of Kuwait. Doom-33 and their fellow pilots and aircrew saved the lives of an unknowable number of soldiers and marines in the invasion.

The evening’s presentation was the result of some remarkable happenstance. Jennifer Fountain, a 1995 LSMSA Alumna and Vice President of the LSMSA Alumni Association, is a major in the US Air Force who served under Col. Ward while they were both assigned to the Pentagon. She is currently in her final year on active duty and is serving as a math tutor at the LSMSA as part of a transition program. She invited her old boss down to Natchitoches to speak to the students about his participation in the top-secret mission undertaken years before any of them were born.