11 November 2007

Bent Spear generates new man with finger on button

Former BAFB figure new 5th Wing head at Minot Air Force Base

Col. Joel S. Westa replaces Bruce Emig after nuclear weapons mixup.

Col. Joel Westa official biography: www.minot.af.mil/library/biographies/bio.asp?id=10549
Minot Air Force Base: www.minot.af.mil
Barksdale Air Force Base: www.barksdale.af.mil
Andersen Air Force Base: www.andersen.af.mil

By John Andrew Prime

A former Barksdale Air Force Base B-52 strategist is the new commander of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Col. Joel S. Westa, who divided time between Barksdale and Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., over a five-year span in the 1990s and earlier this decade commanded the 340th Weapons Squadron here, replaces Col. Bruce Emig.

Emig was fired in the wake of an August incident where six nuclear weapons were inadvertently flown from Minot to Barksdale on a 2nd Wing bomber.

Other officers fired after a six-week investigation included the 5th Maintenance Group commander at Minot, and at Barksdale the commander and vice commander of the 2nd Operations Group and the commander of the 96th Bomb Squadron.

The 5th Munitions Squadron commander at Minot was relieved of command soon after news of the incident first was reported by Gannett's Military Times in early September.

At the time of the incident, Westa was vice commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

In his first stint at Barksdale, from August 1992 to June 1997, Westa was an instructor, flight commander and then chief of curriculum for the

B-52 division at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Ellsworth and Barksdale, according to his official biography.

He was commander of the 340th Weapons Squadron at Barksdale, the B-52 squadron of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, from July 2001 through June 2003.

Past assignments include work as deputy chief of the 12th Air Force Commander's Action Group, Chief of Strategy for the 12th Air Force Air and Space Operations Center and operations officer for the 612th Combat Plans Squadron, all at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Westa is a master navigator with 2,845 flight hours in the B-52 bomber, with limited time in the

F-15, F-16 and S-3 aircraft.

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