By Josh Aycock
341st Missile Wing
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont., Feb. 3, 2014 – While flying back to Washington D.C., Feb. 1 from the Munich Security Conference, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with six officers currently pulling alert duty in three of the 341st Missile Wing’s ICBM launch control centers here.
In conversations that lasted approximately an hour, Hagel expressed his confidence in the officers’ ability to carry out the nuclear deterrence mission, according to DOD officials.
The officers Hagel spoke with belong to the 10th, 12th and 490th Missile Squadrons.
Hagel also listened to the officers’ concerns and said he deeply appreciates their critical service to the nation, according to those he spoke with.
“Secretary Hagel asked how I felt about everything that’s going on and I told him the workload has increased and it’s hard to see friends involved,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Jordan Seibert, a 12th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “It was really humbling, and it showed that our mission is on his mind.”
The officers told the secretary they hoped the nuclear review he ordered will result in improvements for the intercontinental ballistic missile career field.
“I was able to express to him personally that I feel optimistic about potential changes in how we’re tested,” said Air Force Capt. Adam Ross, a 490th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “More importantly, I’m optimistic about how we can find new ways to interpret the results of our testing.”
Hagel thanked the missileers for dealing with a higher operational tempo and more time on alert given the ongoing investigation he ordered into alleged cheating on proficiency exams by nuclear launch missileers. More than 90 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base have been suspended in what Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has characterized as a “systemic problem”. During his phone calls, Hagel encouraged those he spoke with to continue carrying out their mission in support of strategic deterrence.
“The SecDef showed concern for the crew force’s personal life impacts, with the understanding that we are being called upon to complete a higher ops tempo to complete our mission,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Tracie Davis, a 10th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “It really showed interest in us for him to take his personal time to connect with the force. He absolutely achieved his goal to connect and show concern for this mission and its people.”
For one member, it was definitely an alert duty shift to remember.
“The call was surprising and really cool,” said Air Force 2nd Lt. James Hunter III, a 10th Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, who was in the midst of completing his first alert shift. “It’s something I will never forget — eye opening.”
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