Yes, yet another failure for our nuke folks. Some guys can never catch a break. The Security Forces apparently failed to recapture a nuclear missile that had been “captured” by bad guys during a recent exercise testing the fitness of the troops operating and protecting our nuclear missile launch facilities. This is not a good thing.
Let’s be realistic, these exercises are meant to test the ability of the men and women to be able to think critically and make fast decisions. One of the main things I tried to teach the other SF I worked with was that some situations will come up that you may have never trained for, everything is not textbook and the bad guys do not play by the rules.
The failures in these situations point to a critical problem with our leaders. There is very little innovation, very little interest (in my experience) in listening to the Airmen on the front lines. I always found it disappointing when I would hear a flight chief come to do a post check and ask the Airmen to state the Airman’s Creed. While that may be important, what should be important is the fitness of the Airmen to adequately do their duties by knowing them. I had a great flight chief that would run us into the ground in back to back scenarios, making it up as he went along (he was also a former Sheriff’s deputy, so he knew how the bad guys would operate). I would be absolutely exhausted at the end of the night. I learned a lot from those exercises.
One of the most important things a commander can do is teach his or her Airmen to be able to think on their feet. I would spend lots of time asking Airmen at the gate “what if” scenarios. “Okay, Airman Johnson, a blue Ford Taurus is pulling up to your gate, but something seems off. When you lean into the car to check i.d.’s you see a man with a mask holding a gun to the driver’s head. What do you do?” “The mini mart just got robbed, what are the procedures here at the gate?” On patrol I would ask Airmen “what color was the car that just passed us? How many occupants and what was the tag?” I always believed in keeping the Airmen on their toes. Unfortunately, things have changed quite a bit since I joined back in 1990. Airmen don’t live on base as much, which causes untold number of problems. Young Airmen are getting married and living beyond their means. Some of these young troops came from bad backgrounds at home and tend to carry many of those problems into the military with them. We were sent Airmen that had failed out of other schools and since SF was ALWAYS short handed and in need of bodies, we took them. That led to another whole set of issues in itself.
Technology has changed the way people think. Advances in how we operate as a society outside the gates has changed the way young people coming into the military behave, think and act. Some of the changes in the military system have not done us any favors. Commanders and others in leadership are told to accept changes that would have been unfathomable 20 years ago. The ‘kindler, gentler’ approach to training Airmen leads to poor performance and lackadaisical attitudes.
I am not going to armchair quarterback these folks at Malmstrom, because I know jack shit about nukes. But I do know the one thing about bad guys, they are bad. So the best way to beat bad is to be good, real good….at being bad. The Airmen would laugh when I said this, but I put it like this: if you are a bad guy and you want that nuke, think about all the things you know we aren’t doing. Observe where your fellow airmen are taking shortcuts, not being alert, not doing what they should. That’s where the bad guy lives. Get in that house and kick his ass. Often enough, a little peer pressure and some incentive would get the airmen to tighten up their own ranks.
I can’t say that I would have all the answers to fixing the problems at Malmstrom, but I think a different approach might be in order. The nation depends on these Airmen to be able to defend us, perhaps it’s time for a overhaul of the system.