Captain Daniel "Waldo" Silk

United States Air Force, LETU Class of 2003

I graduated in ’03 with a degree in aeronautical science. During my junior and senior years, I worked at the hangar as a Flight Instructor and then moved on to corporate work for about a year and half before I got into the Air Force. I met my wife Rachel at LeTourneau (an '02 elementary education grad) during my sophomore year, and we got married less than a year later.

I got commissioned as an officer in the USAF in August '04, and since then have we have lived in: Pensacola, Fla. (flew T-34C's with the Navy for about a year); Enid, Okla. (T-38C fighter / bomber trainer jets); Valdosta, Ga. (F-15C lead in course also flying the T-38C); Abilene, Texas (B-1B Initial Qual. Course); and Rapid City, S.D. (B-1B 34th Bomb Squadron "Thunderbirds"). We are currently stationed at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, S.D. where I fly with the 34th Bomb Squadron. We love living in the Black Hills of South Dakota and just last December had our first kid, David, who is by far the coolest little guy in the world (but I am biased). However, right now I am writing you from a deployed location in Southwest Asia, where my squadron is supporting the wars on terrorism in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We've been here since July and will be returning home in late January, God willing.

We are the premier bomber aircraft in the world at this time. The B-1B Lancer (known as "The Bone"), is the Air Force's fastest, highest payload carrying - and in recent years - most used in war bomber-type aircraft. Our current mission over here in the Middle East basically has us supporting the troops on the ground in a Close Air Support (CAS) role. We fly long sorties (12-16 hours at a time) and carry lots of bombs to deal with whatever the folks on the ground need dealing with (aka: killing terrorists and protecting our boys down there). We currently have a very high ops. tempo. and are certainly more busy than we have ever been as a community. Though the B-1B was designed and built to be a super-sonic, low-level strategic bomber (and we definitely still train to that mission on a regular basis to maintain skill and proficiency) that is not how we are needed in this conflict. And that is the beauty of the versatility of the "Bone". We have been able to adapt and take on the same CAS role that is usually held by other airframes such as the A-10, F-15E or F-16. The B-1 is often times described as "the bomber that doesn't know it's not a fighter,” and that's really proving to be true in how varied a role we have been able to adapt. There is basically always at least one B-1B in the air over Afghanistan providing armed over-watch, and though we sometimes strike pre-planned targets, the vast majority of it is rapid-response CAS in reaction to troops on the ground being engaged by enemy forces. We also now have the ability to do some surveillance and reconnaissance due to recent equipment upgrades.

I have really good e-mail access over here, so that is a blessing for being able to communicate. Also, if you are a student interested in a military career, feel free to reach me personally. I love to talk about flying and would hope that I could be a good source of info for military aviation since I'm currently in the thick of it.