U.S. Air Force Capt. Brooke Lake, front, and Capt. Robert Shannon, 341st Operations Support Squadron, Missile Combat Crew commander instructor, go through a launch procedure checklist during simulation training at Malmstrom Air Force Base on Feb. 6. (Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/Air Force)
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Of the officers involved in the cheating at Malmstrom Air Force Base, about a third have been deemed fit to return to training so they can be certified to perform nuclear duties, Air Force Global Strike Command officials said.
AFGSC sent disciplinary actions to 82 of the airmen involved March 27. Those actions included administrative actions such as a letter of counseling, letter of admonishment or letter of reprimand and non-judicial punishment.
Those actions have not been finalized as the airmen are given the opportunity to seek legal counsel and respond.
Nine cases remain under investigation from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for alleged drug activity or alleged mishandling of classified information.
No decisions have been made yet on which officers, if any, will be removed from the ICBM career field, according to AFGSC.
Of the 79 officers addressed in the investigation report, evidence supported that 15 of the officers sent, received and solicited testing material; 13 sent and received the material; four only sent material; nine solicited and received testing material; 30 only received material; three solicited but did not receive material and five had direct knowledge of cheating and failed to report it, according to the investigation report.
During remarks at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh said the service has studied the nuclear force for the last decade and have implemented more than 1,000 recommendations.
“The Air Force didn’t start focusing on this about two months ago,” Welsh said.
Many changes have already been implemented as a result of the recent spotlight on Malmstrom and the nuclear force, and more are coming, Welsh said.
“Take that honest look in the mirror, admit where we are and then let’s change the game. Our people deserve better than that,” he said.
Of those who cheated, broke the law and broke Air Force policies and rules intentionally, Welsh said, “They don’t have a future with us. That’s not how we operate.”
Welsh said the Air Force has conducted 20 studies on the nuclear force during the last six or seven years and cheating wasn’t identified in any of those studies.
Many of the issues that were identified through the Force Improvement Program that was established after the cheating at Malmstrom was announced in January had also been identified in previous studies, he said.
The Air Force had made efforts for improvements, Welsh said, “obviously not extensive enough.”
On Wednesday, Air Force Global Strike Command also announced that the Advanced ICBM Operations Course will resume in June.
The course helps develop airmen in the ICBM community and promotes professional growth, according to AFGSC.
Personnel who directly support the ICBM mission will attend future operational test launches at Vandenberg AFB.
In his remarks Wednesday, Welsh said about 40 percent of the personnel in each of the three missile squadrons at Malmstrom were involved, including a large number of instructors.
The officers who were relieved of command were not actually involved in the cheating, he said.
“The concern was that they didn’t realize the cheating was occurring,” Welsh said.
As a result of the cheating investigation, AFGSC and 20th Air Force, both parent organizations to Malmstrom, initiated the Force Improvement Program, led by a 69-person team comprised of operations, maintenance, security forces, mission support group and helicopter operations members, as well as peers from outside the ICBM community, including U.S. Navy submariners and AFGSC bomber bases.
Seven teams spent most of April figuring out how to implement some of the biggest FIP recommendations.
Those teams created implementation plans in seven key areas: helicopter reorganization, ICBM maintenance, nuclear duty incentives, creating a security forces “model defender,” ICBM training and evaluation, ICBM alternative crew tours and Personnel Reliability Program overhaul.
The plans from those seven teams are expected to roll out in the next week or two, according to Air Force officials.
Welsh said they are looking at the recommendations to “figure out where we can put resources, where we should put resources, where we have the most impact.”
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