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Defining success in the nuclear mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Beumer
  • 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Never ending inspections and exercises are the battle rhythm for strategic bomber wings. Inspections are necessary in the nuclear enterprise and are not going away. The question is how can we better define success when passing one inspection only means we get to prepare for the next one? How do we know what we have accomplished and what lies ahead?

The mission of Air Force Global Strike Command's strategic bomber has not changed much in the last 20 years. What has changed is the number of inspections required to assess our readiness and compliance with nuclear surety rules. Our people want to succeed. It's more critical than ever to translate what defines success in this continuous cycle of exercises and inspections.

In the days during the Cold War, when our aircraft stood on alert, it was much easier to show our Airmen how they fit in and what our units were accomplishing. Today it is hard for our Airmen to see how generating an alert force, only to "uncock" and stand down really accomplishes anything. It falls to us as leaders to clarify what their role is and how important the work they do is to our nation and our allies.

First, a nuclear exercise is not just an exercise. As Whiteman Air Force Base's 509th Bomb Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Robert Wheeler, calls them, they are a "Deterrence Operation." Our exercises are never local. Eighth Air Force Task Force 204 and U.S. Strategic Command Headquarters monitor our activities and provide inputs as required. This means leadership at the highest levels oversees our "exercises" and monitors our progress.

Other people monitor our activities as well. Our potential adversaries are always watching. The speed and precision in which we generate our forces clearly demonstrates to those nations we are ready.

Routine training sorties are also more than just training. Every sortie generated by our wing assures the continued ready state of our aircrew. Ready aircraft and crews put adversaries at risk. If we are not ready or we fail an inspection, a critical instrument of power is diminished in the eyes of our foes. Every ready aircrew, every mission capable aircraft, every deterrence operation, and every inspection passed demonstrates our resolve and assures our friends. The confidence of our enemies is directly tied to how many of their targets we hold at risk each day through our training.

Each sortie we miss or inspection we fail gives our enemies and our potential enemies the confidence to pursue their own aims. It is our charge to keep those targets at risk each and every day. The strategic bomber force assures adversaries there is nowhere to hide and they are in jeopardy all the time.

We do owe Airmen in the nuclear enterprise a better definition of success in our current battle rhythm. Exercises and inspections are hard, and routine training is among those most important military actions that never make the news. Therefore, we must communicate to them no matter what role each Airman plays; every effort made for the nuclear mission pays huge dividends to the stability of the world.