The latest change in the nuclear missile career field will let airmen trade places with each other, opening up opportunities for officers to work on a different base for three months.
The program, announced Wednesday, will transfer small groups of airmen to give them first-hand experience with operations in another squadron. Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, has received four officers from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and three from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. Seven officers from Minot were sent to fill the places of the airmen from Malmstrom and F.E. Warren.
“The idea is that the folks embedding with us for 90 days would be able to experience at the ground level some of the changes and initiatives we’re implementing as part of the Force Improvement Program,” Lt. Col. David Rickards, deputy group commander of the 91st Operations Group at Minot, said in a release announcing the program.
Eh. ICBM launch officer is a career field in the Air Force. Imagine that. A career of 20 to 25 years consisting of sitting in a hole in the ground. It was one thing during the height of the Cold War to provide incentives to keep at least some high quality officers in the career field. But in the last 20 years, it has apparently been quite the challenge. The scandals that have rocked the community are evidence of this.
The really interesting part of the article is the part I didn’t excerpt. The Air Force has started to send some missileers on exchange tours to the Navy’s Trident sub community. The thing is, there’s not really a “missile” community in the Navy for submarine officers. Oh, sure, some officers will spend more time in missile boats than in fast attack boats, but there isn’t a dedicated career path that an officer follows to the exclusion of serving on another type of sub platform.
And the Navy draws its missile officers from the ranks of its qualified nuclear submarine officers. That is, a tour as a missile officer is just that, a tour, as a part of a successful career as a submarine officer.
Given that, we have to wonder if the Air Force should look to that model, where serving as an ICBM launch officer is a tour as a part of a career dedicated primarily to another platform, say space systems management, or service in the B-52 and B-2 communities.