First Lt. Daniel Cook, 319th Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander, and 2nd Lt. Kyle Todd, 319th Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, man the launch control center of the Delta-01 missile alert facility Aug. 23. (Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese/Air Force)
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Some missileers will be eligible for bonuses and incentive pay under the first round of changes aimed at improving morale and addressing ethical issues in the nuclear missile community, the Air Force announced Thursday.
New incentives include bonuses for new missileers who successfully complete initial skills training and targeted incentive pay for airmen operating outside the main base, both effective Oct. 1. The service is also offering Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships for missile duty, 10 of which have already been awarded. The Air Force has not finalized the amount of pay for the incentives, according to Global Strike Command.
Other changes include a new service medal, a promotion for the Global Strike commander, increased manning and improved training.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on May 27 approved the creation of the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, which will be awarded to airmen assigned to the nuclear enterprise who work in nuclear operations; nuclear facilities; nuclear command, control and communication; aircraft operations; explosive ordnance disposal; or installation personnel reliability program management. Any active-duty, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve airmen must be deployed or assigned for 120 consecutive or 179 nonconsecutive days to earn the medal. An airmen must be assigned longer to earn the “N” device for the medal. The eligibility has not been finalized, according to the Air Force.
James has said the creation of new medals or awards are one way to address issues of low morale that have been “systemic” among the missileer force.
The Air Force also announced that James has recommended that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel elevate the rank of the Global Strike commander from a three-star to a four-star.
“This important mission in the Air Force deserves the highest level of leadership oversight similar to our other operational core mission areas,” James told the American Forces News Service.
The service also wants to elevate the assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration from a two-star to a three-star.
Among manning increases, two majors will be added to each missile squadron to serve as assistant operations officers to cover the gap between lieutenant colonel squadron commanders and lieutenants and captains who are missileers, according to AFNS. These midlevel commanders would help decrease the “micromanaging” from higher commanders that missileers have complained about.
Global Strike Command also announced changes for the development of the officers.
The command is following the lead of the aviation community to increase experience for operators before they transition into leadership. The new “3 + 3” program will have a missile officer spend the initial three-year tour as a deputy crew member and then upgrade to a crew commander. During the first assignment, the officer will focus on mastering the weapons system before moving to the second three-year assignment as instructor, evaluator and flight commander, according to Global Strike Command. For most of the officers, the second three years would include trasnferring to a different base.
Currently, missileers are on a four-year tour, and an officer would spend the first two years as a deputy crew commander and, based on the strength of test scores, would compete to be an evaluator. In the second half, the airman would be a commander and use evaluations to compete to become an instructor. Officers said this would force airmen to do fewer alerts and focus on evaluations instead of mastering the job.
The command will also implement cross-service exchanges and new leadership development courses for missile commanders.
“By implementing the best practices from the Air Force, training now focuses on providing learning opportunities where critical self-assessment is paramount, and the instruction is tailored to the experience level of each crew,” Global Strike Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson said in a release.
Evaluation of missile officers is now in a recurring 15- to 18-month cycle, comprised of a written test, simulator evaluation and field evaluation, Wilson said.
The changes came from the command’s Force Improvement Program, which included a bottoms-up review of the nuclear missile community and airmen’s suggestions on how to improve the missile force. The program was started after a large-scale cheating investigation involving airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont, earlier this year.
Global Strike announced May 29 that the program will head to bomber crews, beginning in mid-June. Five teams will visit bomber units at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; and Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Other teams will visit airmen at Andersen Air Base, Guam, and Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. The teams will conduct surveys and personally interview airmen.