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Military Matters

Aug 13, 2013 8:38 PM by KRTV

Malmstrom rated "unsatisfactory" in nuclear inspection

GREAT FALLS - The Air Force Global Strike Command Inspector General team conducted an inspection of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base from August 5-13 to evaluate the organization's ability to execute operations while complying with nuclear surety standards.

According to a press release from Air Force Global Strike Command, the 341st Missile Wing received a rating of "unsatisfactory" after making "tactical-level errors during one of several exercises conducted during the inspection."

The failure resulted in the entire inspection being graded "unsatisfactory."

In the press release, Lt. General Jim Kowalski, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said that does not mean that the safety of the nation's nuclear arsenal is at risk: "These inspections are designed to be tough to pass. A failure doesn't mean the wing isn't able to accomplish its mission."

Kowalski said that identifying discrepancies is part of the process to ensure a "safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal."

The AFGSC inspection team will return to inspect appropriate aspects of the missile wing within 90 days, in accordance with established Department of Defense and Air Force guidance.

David Weissman of the Central Montana Defense Alliance said, "The big deal is that overall our nuclear arsenal is totally safe. The professionalism at Malmstrom, and all three missile wings for that matter, is extremely high and they have a way higher standard of operating then we could ever imagine in our standards of life on the outside of the military because of the seriousness of the mission they have."

The 341st Missile Wing is responsible the intercontinental ballistic missile force in central Montana, with a total force of 4,000 personnel and 150 Minuteman III ICBMs located throughout a 13,800 square-mile complex.

Malmstrom is one of three bases responsible for maintaining ICBMs; the others are Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

Air Force Global Strike Command is responsible for all of the nation's ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers.


(UPDATE, 8 p.m.) The commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force, Colonel Robert Stanley, issued the following press release on Tuesday evening.

"I wish I could openly describe the details of this inspection and its results to our community. But, to do that would give America's adversaries far too much information about how we operate. What I can say is that these inspections are as exacting a test as one can possibly imagine. They are a pass/fail test of enormous complexity. Imagine being in a college physics class, and working through five pages of calculations on a problem. But, you receive no credit if your answer is off by even a decimal. That is the nature of our job, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is the nation's most powerful weapon system. The problem is that nuclear weapons duty is so foreign to anyone who has never served in that mission area that they try to compare it to something they are familiar with. Even those who have served in conventional military units have a very hard time understanding our culture, and how exacting we are. In a conventional unit that deploys to a combat zone, they constantly are measured by battlefield victories and being under attack by an adversary. In nuclear weapons duty, we have to simulate that same kind of pressure by making our inspections so incredibly tough that it simulates a combat environment with real ramifications. This is why our Nuclear Surety Inspections are pass/fail.

In our inspection this past week, we were rated "Outstanding" or "Excellent" in 10 of 13 areas. In one, we earned a "Satisfactory." But, we were rated "Unacceptable" in two related areas due to the same deficiency. As a result of our overall performance, there was no question about our capability to operate safely and with complete confidence. It does highlight an area in which we will be working closely to ensure some very young Airmen understand their roles and responsibilities much more clearly. We've already started that process.

We are about to show what this wing is made of. Our story is much larger than a singular event that didn't go as well as we demand under inspection; it's about an incredible number of superior performers who have truly earned the confidence of the American people. More importantly, they truly earn the fear and respect of our nation's adversaries every day. For the Nuclear Airmen of Malmstrom Air Force Base, I expect us to perform our day-to-day mission perfectly. Nothing is more important."

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