Bruce Blood

As featured in the Whitman County Gazette

Colfax Chief of Police Bruce Blood, 69, started his service in the Air Force in 1977. Blood explained at the time he was in college at the University of Washington with a biology, chemistry, and psychology major in 1977, his senior year.

“I didn’t see anything that interested me at that point,” he said, adding that his dad was in the Army during World War II, “so I decided to try that option.”

Blood went for testing and qualified for an officer position and as a navigator, after which he decided to enter the service in the fall of 1977. 

He started his service at an Officer Training School in San Antonio, Texas.

“I was a 90-day wonder reserve officer and went on active duty,” Blood said. 

He would then go to Sacramento, California, to start Navigation School. After graduating from Navigation School, Blood chose to be a navigator on the B-52, and he explained starting as navigator begins on the lower deck of the B-52.

“After a few years, you move over to the left seat, which is the radar navigator/bombardier,” he said, adding that the radar navigator controls all the weapons. 

“The navigator does the primary navigation for the aircraft,” Blood said, “gets you where you want to be to either release missiles or release bombs.” 

After choosing to be navigator, Blood moved onto Castle Air Force Base in Merced, California, to do specific training for the B-52s, such as learning all the avionics, rudimentary B-52 characteristics, and dynamics and information on the plane. Blood would also know all the flight characteristics, but it was all centered on navigation and the instrumentation on a B-52. 

Blood explained that as you walk onto the bottom of the B-52 aircraft and climb up, a whole wall of instrumentation is viewable, which they had to learn thoroughly. 

When Blood arrived at Castle Air Force Base, they would go airbourne to practice the instrumentation in the air. He explained that they were learning the basics of using all the equipment properly, being proficient with all the instrumentation and navigation techniques, and being a line navigator.  

After completing the training, Blood’s first assignment was in Minot, North Dakota, at Minot Air Force Base, which he stated was cold due to being up north near the Canadian border.

Blood joined a crew of six guys at Minot, taking on the navigator role. There was a navigator, radar navigator, pilot, co-pilot, electronic warfare officer, and a gunner on the H model, which Blood explained was the latest version of the B-52. 

“I spent four years there,” Blood stated, explaining that during his time there, he progressed both in rank and as a first lieutenant, “I switched over to the radar navigator,” he said.

Due to the switching to radar navigator, Blood returned to Castle Airforce Base in Merced to train to gain proficiency in that position. After this, he returned to join another crew of six before being transferred to Fairchild Airforce Base in Washington, where he would spend three more years as a radar navigator before being selected to become an operation officer in the bomb navigation shop. 

“We studied all the low-level routes that the B-52 flies on for training, and I’d brief the other crew members,” Blood said, adding that there were other various duties they would do.

“We analyze and get more involved in the training aspect of all the crews on the base in the bomb squadron,” Blood said.

Blood then went to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, to join the 49th test squadron, where they tested all the munition that the strategic air command had control of for the B-52, some of the B-1 and the FB-111 when it was still in service.

In the 49th test, squadron Blood explained they were at the end of the testing process, testing the viability of weapons that had been on the shelf for years.

The squadron would go onto the Air Base, get in the inventory, select random weapons or missiles, and test them. 

Blood explained that they’d take the warhead out and put the avionics package in that monitors when the missile is flying, as well as different aspects and dynamics of the missile.

Blood admitted that testing and monitoring the missiles was a lot of fun.

“Part of that program was building targets and then putting a bunch of picture cameras,” Blood said, adding that they were high-speed motion cameras. 

They would then drop the missile and see how it would hit the target, “We got to do that specifically when we got the conventional cruise missile,” Blood said, adding that they would explode the missile, and the high-speed cameras would capture all the damage and coverage for later study on what the missile was supposed to do.

Blood then went into the first Gulf War, flying seven B-52s from Louisiana to Kuwait, launching missiles, and flying back. A 35-hour mission, Blood stated. He spent four years after that in the 49th squadron testing missiles before taking on an international assignment with the United Nations in Israel, Egypt, and Syria keeping the peace.

After the UN, Blood was assigned to air combat command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where he spent the rest of his career before retiring in 1995. 

Blood advocates for military service and suggests it to anyone who wants to experience travel.

After spending 23 years as a Washington State Patrol Officer, Blood retired due to mandatory retirement at age 65. He lives in Spokane County with his wife, has four grown kids, and makes the 45-minute commute to be Colfax Chief of Police.

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