Rebuilding A Missile Cadre

Air Force Space Command has decided to push forward on re-emphasizing the ICBM career path, Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, commander of 20th Air Force, told a Capitol Hill breakfast audience April 15 (see above). Burg, who oversees USAF’s Minutman III missile force, said Gen. Robert Kehler, AFSPC’s commander, is spearheading this initiative. According to Burg, 99 percent of 20th AF’s officers who perform nuclear launch duties are in their first duty assignment. “That means my launch commanders were eight years old in 1991,” he said, noting that the end of the Cold War is an elementary school memory to most of them. “We need to teach them what we knew 20 years ago,” he said. To address this experience and knowledge gap, Kehler has chosen to rebuild an ICBM-centric career track inside AFSPC, Burg said. This means, Burg said, “You can be, and should be, and will be expected to serve a full career and reach the highest levels and stay inside the ICBM force.” Kehler is also pressing forward with a weapons school track for Minuteman III operators, Burg said. AFSPC planners are developing the concepts for the new track now and hope soon to announce the first class, he said. A new position—deputy director of operations responsible for nuclear operations—has also been created at AFSPC to put more leadership emphasis on the ICBM mission, Burg said. These small steps will help to re-create a “nuclear culture” in the Air Force that has not existed since the Cold War ended, he said. Last year’s errant transfer of six nuclear weapons onboard a B-52 bomber has already caused USAF to institute changes across its nuclear enterprise to re-emphasize the importance of the nuclear mission.