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Moving Forward: 20th AF/CC outlines professional development initiatives

  • Published
  • By Maj Gen Anthony Cotton
  • 20th Air Force

Today, more than 11,000 “Sentinels” currently serving in 20th Air Force are following in the footsteps of our first commanders - Generals Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Curtis E. LeMay and Nathan F. Twining - founding fathers of the United States Air Force and global strike innovators. For more than 55 years, the men and women who served in the ICBM mission have performed admirably to shape chapters in our nation’s and our service’s histories, from the Cuban Missile Crisis through the Cold War to our current dynamic and unpredictable strategic landscape.


Deterrence rings hollow without skilled and dedicated Airmen, and our ICBM Campaign Plan identifies “Coach, Train and Mentor Nuclear Professionals and Leaders” as a goal for our force. To achieve this goal, we’ve made great strides in improving our professional development opportunities administered by the 20th Air Force ICBM Center of Excellence.


Our focus goes beyond growing proficient [technical experts]. We also strive to grow competent leaders and well-rounded Airmen.


Our instructor and evaluator courses have been (and continue to be) the hallmark of the ICE, but we’ve kicked them up a notch by making them crossfunctional. While appropriate portions of these courses remain operations-, maintenance-, and security-specific, the majority of each class brings Airmen together to allow them to understand each other’s perspective and to reinforce a team approach to the mission.


Further, the ICE now offers leadership-oriented courses, such as for missileers upgrading to missile combat crew commander and for Airmen assuming flight commander duties across our wings.


Finally, the Advanced ICBM Operations Course is a crossfunctional “missile master’s” course for select Airmen to better understand integrated operations and prepare to be the future leaders of the ICBM mission.


Perhaps our greatest innovation in the ICE is our program designed to broaden an Airman’s perspective through interactive visits with mission partners.


In fiscal year 2015, we executed about $800,000 in TDY funds to send Airmen to Vandenberg Air Force Base to observe a test ICBM launch; to the U.S. Strategic Command Headquarters to observe the Global Operations Center and Air Room operations; to the National Capital Region to tour key nuclear enterprise offices and the National Military Command Center; to Hill AFB to tour ICBM Program Office facilities; and to Air Force Global Strike Command Headquarters to conduct professional [cross-talk] with the bomber community.


Reaction to our professional development program has been hugely positive across the force. Our Airmen appreciate the investment we’re making in their understanding of U.S. nuclear operations.


It’s not going to stop there. I also plan to invite Electronic Warfare Officer planners from each of our wings to fly with me during my Airborne Emergency Action Officer missions on the E-6B to expose our Airmen to the critical need for the land-based portion of the Triad.


Our senior leaders are vested in ensuring the nuclear mission remains the Air Force’s top priority. Thanks for your continued support of our ICBM heritage and of today’s Sentinels who proudly carry on that heritage!


This article is an excerpt from Gen Cotton’s commentary in The Quarterly Newsletter of the Association of Air Force Missileers, Volume 24, Number 2 published June, 2016. The entire commentary can be accessed at