Son flew historic combat mission on B-52 his dad helped design - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Son flew historic combat mission on B-52 his dad helped design

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The B-52 Bomber has spanned generations. But for one family here, it's personal. From a man who helped design the latest models to his son who flew one on a historic combat mission.

"When the word came in to take off, scared to death," retired Air Force Col. Warren Ward remembers of the mission on January 16th, 1991.

He was a pilot in the first wave of B-52's flying out of Barksdale Air Force Base under a cover of darkness. They would fire --

for the first time ever in combat -- conventional air launch cruise missiles, wiping out key targets to open Operation Desert Storm -- the first Iraq War -- 23 years ago.

"Just great pride and amazement that you could be part of that," Ward says of the 35-hour round trip mission. "Proud to have done it."

And one of those who helped design the B-52 Ward flew was his dad, Steve, who now lives at the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home. He became a mechanical engineer at Boeing, helping design the B-52 models that still fly today. He's proud of his son.

"He kept his nose clean, as far as I know. And kept the nose of the airplane clean. That's another thing. You always want to keep the nose clean," the elder Ward said with a laugh from his bed.

Steve Ward learned to fly small planes off of pastures around his native southwestern Arkansas. Then he joined the Navy Reserves as an aircraft mechanic and squadron artist. The jets that zoomed off his carrier deck in the Korean War sported nose art that Ward painted. He didn't become a Navy Reserve pilot himself because he would've had to serve until age 65.

"That's a long time. A long time," he says in a southern drawl.

Fueled by his father's interest, Warren graduated from Air Force flight school in 1988. He wanted a fighter jet. He got the B-52 Bomber.

"Knowing the history and the family," he said glancing down at his dad, "Well, at least I knew that's a solidly built airplane that I trust."

Warren Ward had 147 combat hours flying the B-52. He took care of it. And now he faithfully cares for his dad who helped keep the BUFFs flying.

"It's an honor to still serve him while he's here," he said, holding his father's hand during a daily visit.

Warren Ward survived a scary B-52 training mission in 1995 when, shortly after takeoff, there was an explosion and they lost two engines. The fire burned off the strut and the burning engines fell from the plane before it blew up. Ward guided the B-52 down safely. He says they survived thanks in part to those like his dad who designed the plane.

Warren Ward is now Deputy Director of the Programming Division at Air Force Global Strike Command.

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