Whiteman Air Force personnel join California Rural Fire at annual dinner

Lt. Col. Mark Pye, left, B2 13th Bomber Squadron commander, presents a shadow box with a flag CRFPD Board Vice President Glen Bayne.

Lt. Col. Mark Pye, left, B2 13th Bomber Squadron commander, presents a shadow box with a flag CRFPD Board Vice President Glen Bayne. Photo by David Wilson.

Several members of the "Grim Reapers," otherwise known as the 13th Bomb Squadron, joined the California Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) Saturday, Feb. 18, at its annual meeting. Whiteman Air Force Base commander Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm was a special guest.

The B2 Bomber squadron commander, Lt. Col. Mark "Zulu" Pye, presented a shadow box with flag and documentation from the recent Libyan operation to the CRFPD Board Vice President Glen Bayne to be mounted on the wall. Pye thanked the rural fire district for inviting the squadron personnel to California as a sister community.

"It's a wonderful bond between the community and the base," he said.

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Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, Whiteman Air Force Base Commander, speaks briefly to the California rural firefighters before presenting a special belt buckle to Fire Chief Steve Walters. Vander Hamm is the former squadron commander. After a year with a civilian company in a special program, he was assigned a command in South Dakota and one in Texas before assignment to the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. After promotion to flag rank, he was assigned to command Whiteman AFB.

He spoke of the history between the organizations, in which the 325th Bomber Squadron, later to become the 13th Bomber Squadron, helped with some of the building projects of the rural fire department.

According to Pye, the Air Force squadron has several goals, such as preventing things from "going on out there" and having to "respond to a large area" – both of which are shared with the rural firefighters. He said volunteer firefighters and Air Force personnel both put other people above their own time to serve.

He said one major task of his squadron is to visibly deter the activity of some others. "Sometimes they don't get the memo and we have to respond," he said. "It's the same type of deal."

Speaking of the operation to Libya, Pye said the 13th Bomb Squadron, acting as a part of a bigger team, blew up the airplanes the former dictator was going to use to blow up his own people.

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Rex and Wyatt Martensen perform at the California Rural Fire Protection District annual dinner.

Gen. Vander Hamm, Whiteman Air Force Global Strike Command, 509th Bomb Wing Commander, presented a squadron belt buckle to Fire Chief Steve Walters.

"The Good Book says, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,'" said Vander Hamm.

The volunteers do what is needed for their friends and the community, not for a paycheck.

"We are very much like you," he said.

Both the military people and the firefighters volunteer for their communities, even though the fires they fight are different in nature and scope.

Other Air Force personnel present included Lt. Col. Eric Lapine, B-2 Bomber Squadron second in command and Director of Operations, Flight Lt. Adam Curd, an exchange officer from the Royal Air Force, United Kingdom, and his wife Kelly, and three Aviation Resource Management personnel — Melanie Simmons, Lea Herrera and Amelia McIntosh. Retired Master Sgt. Buck Buckingham and wife Chris also attended as did Joe and Fran Scallorns. Scallorns is a member of the base community relations committee.

Several fire fighters were present to be recognized for their long service by Fire Chief Walters. Wayne Hagemeyer was recognized for 45 years of service; Bobby Borts was recognized for 20 years; Shelly Hampton for 10 years; and Cindy Borts for five years. Wyatt and Rex Martensen provided musical entertainment at the event.

All were invited to the Wings Over Whiteman Air Show and Open House at the air base May 19-20.

The headliner this year is the U.S. Army Golden Knights, which will deliver another spectacular performance as seen in years past. Also featured will be dozens of static displays, exhibition aircraft, vintage and modern war birds and much more. Additional aerial acts are scheduled to be added.

All aircraft that call Whiteman AFB home, including the B-2 Spirit, T-38 Talon, A-10 Thunderbolt II and AH-64 D Apache helicopter, will be available for viewing.

Entertainment will be provided throughout the event by an Air Force Band.

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