F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFNS) -- (Editor's Note: This story is part of "Through Airmen's Eyes." These stories and commentaries focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
As I complete what I like to call my "first lap" around 20th Air Force, it amazes me to see our Airmen executing what some would call a less than "sexy" mission. I ask myself how many mission sets in our Air Force ask us to never fly a sortie, maintain a 24-hour constant state of readiness and do it from a subterranean environment, which could be called out of sight, out of mind?
As a former cold warrior, I find it amazing that as the Soviet Union slowly shut down their military, the one thing they chose to keep healthy and fully maintained was its intercontinental ballistic missile or rocket forces, the thought being it was the foundation for recover.
Roll the clock forward to today and 9,600 U.S. Airmen of 20th Air Force continue to maintain 450 ICBMs in a constant ready state as our nation's only continuous alert force. It is a daily part of our U.S. Strategic Command commander's task force and one can argue the one mission set that every combatant command takes to work each day.
In fact, our warriors literally switch their 20th Air Force patches to Task Force 214 patches daily as they transition to the missile field for alert and to fulfill COCOM responsibilities. As I like to remind our Airmen, our national leaders take them and their mission around the world every day to assure enemies and allies that we are serious about our commitment to deterrence and proliferation control.
Our subterranean warriors with names like "Chef" (the key to morale most would say), "Facility Manager" (fixing and keep everything running in the living complex), "Cop," "Missileer" or "Maintainer" work near towns like Max, N.D., or Gurley, Neb. (A far cry from Bagram, Fallujah or Camp Leatherneck ... but more closely connected than we all know.) They provide deterrence and the foundation for the global maneuver necessary to execute our nation's intent and direction.
I think it is time we celebrate the 50-plus years of positive contributions. Remember, this mission is not sexy, there are no campaign ribbons, and there aren't cheering crowds that greet us after being deployed to the field. As a civilian told me in the airport one day, "I thought all those missiles have been gone for sometime." Quietly and humbly I responded, "This is America's ICBM force ... elite Airmen!" In this elite service, we have been the "ace in the hole" when needed, and seldom have we asked, "What's in it for me?" The three words that come to me are ... pride, precision and professional!
Our Airmen and this mission amaze me. When I look at what we provide our nation on a daily basis, I can't help but wonder, how many wars have they prevented, how many lives have they saved, how many Americans never had to go into harm's way, and how many adversaries have said "not today" when considering attack or other malice on America and its interests?
As we continue to strengthen our nuclear enterprise and maintain the foundation for a strong nuclear triad, it is an excellent time to reflect on the days past and look at why we built our deterrent force. We have to remember to take care of this enterprise as we move forward to sustainment goals that may require my grandchildren to do this mission. Nuclear deterrence is quiet; so quiet, it is deafening. Deafening to our adversaries and comforting to our allies.
Our country continues to sleep well as we go about our silent and humble business of 24/7 strategic nuclear deterrence.