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MAF life: Making nuclear deterrence more comfortable

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon Johnston
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part one of a three part series on the mission of the missile alert facilities and the Airmen who man them.

Food and shelter - the basics of survival, and the essential services provided by the facility managers and chefs at each missile alert facility across the vast Montana missile field surrounding Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Keeping the operators in the field well fed, rested and comfortable is a major component of ensuring the alert status of the launch facilities each MAF keeps watch over.

For Staff Sgt. Terell Ballard, 341st Force Support Squadron senior missile chef, it is a sense of pride in the mission which drives him to provide the best possible service.

"If we don't take pride in (our cooking), we can probably get someone sick," Ballard said. "You definitely want to make sure that you're cleaning and not cross-contaminating anything because that could be another issue in itself."

Similarly, Tech. Sgt. Garry Swanson believes his role in the MAF is to enable the operators to complete their mission safely and effectively, which he helps through his duties as a 10th Missile Squadron facility manager.

"I make sure everyone is sheltered, fed and that the facility is functional so that the mission can be carried out," Swanson said.

Swanson also tries to look out for the Airmen posted to the field, checking in and seeing how they are handling the separation from their loved ones.

"The ability to communicate effectively is interfered with being gone for four days straight," Swanson said. "One of your main jobs is to recognize if someone's not doing well."

This caring attitude provides a sense of family and belonging, which is vital to unit cohesion and making sure the mission runs smoothly.

With Swanson and Ballard's unwavering dedication at the MAF, it may seem difficult to imagine they find time for themselves. However, Ballard found a productive way to balance his time.

"You get so much time to do school and stuff like that, I've knocked out degrees here," Bollard said. "I was doing seven-level Career Development Courses to make staff sergeant, and I knocked that out pretty fast. You get a lot of time to get stuff done that otherwise you probably wouldn't."

Swanson, less than a year from retirement, who was a facility manager from 2003 to 2008 decided to come back to the facility manager field after a four-year hiatus to round out his career in a way he feels is meaningful.

"I was familiar with the job, and I figured it was a mission I could do for my last tour," Swanson said. "These people care, and they show up and do the right thing every day, and they're not looking for the 'atta boy,'."

The missileers and security forces Airmen work around the clock to defend the United States through nuclear deterrence. They are able to do so more comfortably, making their important job easier on them physically and mentally because of Swanson and Ballard's constant dedication to performing their best at the MAFs.