Air Force to begin rotating launch officers | Air Force Times |

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.

via Air Force to begin rotating launch officers | Air Force Times |

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.

10 thoughts on “Air Force to begin rotating launch officers | Air Force Times |”

  1. I missed the part about sending Air Force Missileers to boomer submarines…from the discussions I used to have with my Air Force counterparts they will run screaming back to their holes in the ground knowing that they have it better than being out on a sub! One of my friends said that his worst month was the month he pulled something like 20 alerts – pretty much every other day with a couple of back to back duty days where he spent 48 hours in the hole covering for other crews due to weather and other related mess ups…

    He still said that beat the XXX out of going to sea in a submarine for 3 months at a whack and being alert for 70-80 days in a steel tube with no one else to see but the same 150 clowns!!

    You are correct that the submarines do not have a specific career path for nuclear missiles – the submarine community intentionally got rid of the General Submarine Officer (GSO) career path. I know – I served with some of the last of this old breed…

    Another thing that is different in the submarine community via the Air Force is that the person standing the watch on a day to day basis is an Enlisted person (both in the missile command center as well as out in the missile tube room) rather than an Officer. The Weps is only going to show up when we actually go to Battle Stations – Missile. Otherwise it is just some Enlisted guys manning the stations and believe me that really freaks the Air Force guys out (or at least it did the one time we had some Air Force guys as part of a tri-service inspection on our boom – the Army guys were even funnier to interact with but that is a different story!!)

    Lastly there is a crucial difference between the Air Force and Navy nuclear missiles but that is not for an open discussion forum.

    The Air Force made the missileers a separate community within the Air Force and then proceeded to treat them like some red-headed step child….if you were not pilot rated then you were shit….And now they act surprised that morale is low? Given the problems that the Air Force is exhibiting with how they are treating their other Commanders there is clearly an organizational problem within the Air Force but the missileers have access to nuclear weapons so we might want to make sure that this particular mess gets sorted very quickly!!

    1. The CMs were not always step children. In the 60s and early 70s they were well regarded. As the Bomber Generals lost influence, and the fighter mafia took over, the Combat Missilemen did become red headed stepchildren. Things really picked up during the last of Bush I’s administration, and went to hell in Slick Willie’s. At the moment, any assignment to what used to be SAC forces is a dead end for an Officer, the Fighter Mafia reigns supreme now.

    2. I think it’s more a matter of USAF politics. The fighter mafia had to endure a lot at the hands of the bomber Generals, including a Bomber General as CG of TAC. AC such as the F-105 were a product of the bomber Gens, and the AC got a lot of pilots killed over North Vietnam. The fighter mafia is quite provincial, alas. They look down on almost anyone not wearing wings and the Missilemen are the lowest of the low.

  2. Not sure the B-2 and B-52 guys have better career prospects than the silo-sitters. It’s a fighter pilot’s Air Force.

    1. Time to bring back SAC?

      But who will play the role of LeMay and kick ass until things are straightened out?

    2. LOL. Imagine Mattis in a blue uniform.

      Actually, imagine the reaction of the blue-suiters upon learning that they were about to be commanded by Mattis…

      1. Gnashing of teeth, rending of garments. 🙂

        I kinda like the current CSAF, Welsh, but it appears the O-6/O-7 level leadership is out of control.

  3. So sitting in a different hole for 90 days is supposed to “broaden” their experience?

    “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,”

    Does this mean that some sites get improved while others don’t?

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