Memories of WWIII: Destination Bitburg Part III

Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Andrew Baker, USAF (Ret.)

“The next morning, Drool (Major Ed Leahy, 27fth TFS operations officer) and I hit the ground running. By first light Drool was busy working out air plans with the Bitburg wing staff and contemporaries from our sister squadrons there. For most of the morning on 5 July, I was moving around the ramp, shops and tab vee shelters, going over beddown plans for the squadron with the maintenance, security, and airbase personnel. I’ve talked a little about the professionalism I discovered in the 36th. The same goes for the folks who operated Bitburg. They had their collective shit together for lack of a better term. From runway repair and airbase security to refueling methods Bitburg was on the ball and ahead of the curve. The same is probably true for the other USAFE bases around same time. Long story short, the folks at Bitburg took being  a forward deployed airbase very seriously and it showed in everything they did in the days leading up to the war.

“For example, there were nowhere near enough shelters on the base to accommodate practically two wings of Eagles at the same time. But this was no worry. In Europe they were expecting sortie rates of four or higher every day for the F-15 squadrons. This translated to a large number of jets being in the air at any given time. When one squadron’s jets were up, the tab vees they vacated would be occupied by Eagles from another squadron. Add in battle losses and jets undergoing repairs or other maintenance, and the plan started to make sense.

“Finding sufficient quarters for my squadron’s pilots and crews was another matter entirely. The plan in the book hadn’t been modified since 1981 and a lot changed between then and July, 1987. In short, there were not going to be enough rooms to accommodate everyone. So more than one person had to be assigned to a bed. In some cases, three were assigned to a single bed. Not an ideal solution, but we made it work.

“At lunch I gathered with the other officers from Langley to compare notes and discuss the plan for the afternoon. Two of us were put on the flight schedule for the late afternoon to replace a pair of pilots from the 22nd TFS who needed some extra time to get their families ready for evacuation. I was looking forward to the opportunity to get a feel for flying in West Germany before things possibly went bad. Unfortunately, the schedule was scrubbed once word came down that President Reagan would be addressing the nation that evening. In our minds this meant for certain there would be no going back to Langley for some time. The president would probably announce the immediate reinforcement of Western Europe in his speech.

“And sure enough that is exactly what happened. Luckily, the Pentagon transmitted warning orders out to USAFE and affected stateside wings in the hours before the speech. By the time Reagan’s talk to the nation concluded, the first flight of Langley-based F-15s were taking off. Destination: Bitburg.


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