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On the frontlines of nuclear deterrence

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
This is the final piece of a four-part series depicting the everyday life at a missile alert facility

"Literally - rain, sleet, or snow, 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron defenders are doing the job 365 days a year, protecting our nation's most vital resources in these austere elements," said Maj. Kenneth Bush, 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron commander. "Our Airmen post out every day saying 'not on my watch will the resource be compromised.'"

Outfitted with body armor; various weapons including M4 carbines, M204 grenade launchers and M9 pistols; and various tools including tear gas, smoke grenades and night-vision or thermal-vision goggles, Airmen of the 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron are always ready to defend important national assets in the missile fields of the 90th Missile Wing.

"The 90th MSFS is comprised of 427 personnel in Air Force Global Strike Command's second largest operational squadron," Bush said. "They provide physical security for 150 U.S. Strategic Command-tasked Protection Level 1 resources, valued more than $4.5 billion, and direct security for launch facilities covering 9,600 square-miles in the Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska tri-state area. They are the first line of defense if there were to be any unauthorized individuals trying to gain entry to our nation's most vital resources."

One duty handled by the 90th MSFS is that of the flight security controller.

"We control entry into launch facilities and missile alert facilities, and we're the eyes and ears for the capsule downstairs," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Ward, 90th MSFS flight security controller.

Flight security controllers monitor security devices and alarms throughout the missile complex, the area which houses the missile alert facilities and launch facilities under the stewardship of the 90th Missile Wing, Ward said.

"We do see suspicious activity along the service roads," he explained. "That's when we would dispatch a security response team."

Security response team members in Humvees or lighter trucks respond to alarms and suspicious activity in the missile complex, said Airman 1st Class Danyiel Wadkins, 90th MSFS.

They also check security devices throughout the missile fields to ensure they work properly, she added.

A variety of things have set off alarms in the missile complex to which security forces must respond: weather, local fauna, protesters, and local residents, but an alarm could be an enemy attempting to gain access to ICBMs, said Airman Brett Oster, 90th MSFS.

"We treat every alarm with the same seriousness," Oster said. "We have to check because we might pay the price for not checking."

Because many alarms are caused by harmless things, the missile fields can get somewhat monotonous to the defenders patrolling them, said 1st Lt. Tate Grogan, 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron Flight 6 commander.

However, Grogan considers the monotony a good thing.

"A lot of them complain that it's boring but that's because they're doing their job," he said. "No enemy has gained control over our nuclear assets because our security forces do what we do. We're psychological deterrence. They know we're there. If they see us step out with our M4 or grenade launcher they will realize we're something they have to go through."

Often, to keep 90th MSFS Airmen's skills sharp and to break the monotony, flight leadership subjects missile field defenders to exercise scenarios, Grogan said.

"Our guys are trained to counter threats whether they're foreign military threats or other unconventional threats," he explained.

Exercises keep this training fresh in their minds. Field training develops critical thinking and excellence in handling situations properly, Grogan said.

"It gives you training that's actually fun and hands-on," Oster said. "The more exercises we go through, the more confident we are we can handle any situation."

Training, working and living together for four-day trips to the field brings defenders in the missile fields close together as a team, Oster said.

"It's like a family: even if you want to get away from them you can't," he laughed.

From a leadership perspective, the tight unit cohesion for missile defenders allows supervisors and other leadership to tailor their leadership styles better to suit the needs of their Airmen.

"Living with your troops creates challenges," Grogan said. "However, we get to know them well, and can adjust how we deal with different situations."

"Overall it makes for a better work environment," Oster added

Airmen who protect critical national assets are aware of the importance of their mission.

"It makes you feel important," Wadkins said. "You're not just protecting yourself; you're protecting your family and people you don't know."

"What our Airman do is very important to this nation," Bush explained. "It can sometimes be a thankless job when you ask someone to stand guard away from their home through countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and many more important events. Our Airmen do it with pride each and every day."

"Regardless of whatever weather, whatever speed bump is out there, we're going to get the job done one way or another," said Oster.