BARKSDALE AFB, La. -- After flying on historic combat missions, retired Col. Trey Morriss has reached one of the highest positions now as a civilian at the 8th Air Force and Global Strike Command.
"They have 330 million Americans depending on what they do," Col. Morriss says of the men and women of The Mighty 8th.
As Director of Staff, Morriss helps ensure that U.S. air power lives up to its motto of Anytime, Anywhere.
"It obviously implies ready to fight tonight. And If we're not ready, what are we here for?" Col. Morriss said.
"The primary instrument that our government uses now to project power, is bombers. Any given time you turn the television on, you'll see a bomber somewhere around the world. And that happens within the four walls of this building that we're sitting in right now," he added.
Col. Morriss was also part of a combat mission for the record books. He was on one of the seven B-52's that left Barksdale on January 16, 1991. It was a round-the world sortie to open Operation Desert Storm.
"That set the standard for how we do national defense and project power as a nation now. The first time we ever did anytime, anywhere was Desert Storm."
The bombers dropped the first GPS guided conventional air launch cruise missiles ever in combat, wiping out Iraqi command and control centers in Baghdad. It took four mid-air refuelings to make what became known as Operation Secret Squirrel happen. The 14,000 mile mission ended with the B-52's touching down for the first time in nearly 36 hours back at Barksdale.
Col. Morriss says of he and all the crew members, "We were a generation that hadn't seen war, hadn't seen conflict. So you just you just did it. And that was the end of it."
But it was not the end of Col. Morriss' combat history. As a reservist ten years later, he was back in the skies soon after the 9/11 attacks -- with more capability.
“Here we are a whole decade later when this thing called GPS is around -- you may have heard of it," he says with a wry smile. "And now it was more of the the standard for precision weaponry. Whereas the Desert Storm mission 10 years earlier was the very first use of GPS in any kind of precision weapon delivery.”
Col. Morriss was an electronic warfare officer on all those missions.
"You have to take an aircraft that's the size of a barn and try to hide it with electronic means. And that could include jamming other enemy radar. And it could also mean dropping chaff and flares," he explained.
He says the Taliban’s defenses were more advanced than Iraq’s.
“You had surface to air missiles to contend with, and other surveillance radars, and potential enemy aircraft. All of those had to be neutralized early in the conflict,” he said.
And Col. Morriss was on board for another Air Force first. As depicted in the movie 12 Strong, B-52’s were called on for close air support of Special Operations ground forces.
“That was brand new, never done before in a large platform bomber where we're doing close air support with platforms that are normally known for what we used to call carpet bombing from the Vietnam War days,” he said.
Col. Morriss finished out his reserve service in 2017 as Vice Commander of the 307th Bomb Wing, before returning to Barksdale a couple years later to his chief position at the 8th Air Force.
“My heart is always in with the Air Force and national defense. I love being part of something that's much greater than myself,” he says.
Col. Morriss is originally from Springdale, Arkansas. The first flight he was ever on was to his physical in Little Rock when he joined the Air Force. He was inspired to join by a grandfather and great uncle who both flew in World War II.