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Three Generations of B-52 Airmen

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Col. Don Sprague (USAF, Retired); Capt. Daniel Welch, 23rd Bomb Squadron Pilot, and Col. Don Welch (USAF, Ret.), represent three generations of B-52 Stratofortress pilots. They are the embodiment of the continued power and capabilities of the buff, which live on to this day. (Courtesy photo)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Col. Don Sprague (USAF, Retired); Capt. Daniel Welch, 23rd Bomb Squadron Pilot, and Col. Don Welch (USAF, Ret.), represent three generations of B-52 Stratofortress pilots. They are the embodiment of the continued power and capabilities of the buff, which live on to this day. (Courtesy photo)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- When Capt. Daniel Welch, 23rd Bomb Squadron Pilot, arrived at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in January 2011, he became part of the same squadron his grandfather commanded in the 1970s, the 23d Bomb Squadron, a unit of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot.

As a B-52H Stratofortress Aircraft Commander, Daniel Welch is keeping up his family's tradition as a B-52 flight officer.

Both his grandfather, Col. Don Sprague (USAF, Retired), of Sacramento, Calif., and his father, Lt. Col. Don Welch (USAF, retired), of Las Vegas, Nev., were B-52 aviators.

Col. Sprague, Daniel's grandfather, was commissioned by ROTC. He went to Maxwell AFB, Ala., for additional training, where he met Daniel's grandmother, Marion. He attended pilot training in Texas. During his career he flew the F-86 Saber, the B-47 and then "the mighty B-52," flying every model from the A to H.

Sprague flew combat missions in Vietnam. As a result of one of those missions over North Vietnam, he became a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Sprague returned from Vietnam and was assigned to Minot AFB in the early 1970s "where he became the squadron commander of the 23rd Bomber Barons." Sprague then was assigned to Mather AFB, Calif., where he became the wing commander.
Don Welch, Daniel's father, was commissioned by ROTC, and assigned to Mather. While there he met Diane Sprague, the Wing Commander's daughter. Shortly after they were married, in the early 1980s, they were assigned to Guam where Daniel was born.

The lifestyle of a B-52 crew member during the Cold War meant always being ready and on nuclear alert status. Shopping at the Base Exchange with the family could be suddenly interrupted by the sound of the klaxon, which would signal the Aircrew to respond to their aircraft, not knowing if it was the real thing or a drill.

Daniel Welch said, "Growing up with my grandfather and father as role models made it pretty easy to decide that I wanted to pursue a career in aviation."

Following his graduation from the Air Force Academy in 2008, he was able to realize this goal. Graduating from pilot training in December 2009, he began flying the B-52 in March 2010 at Barksdale AFB, La.
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