Missileer: The Dawn, Decline, and Reinvigoration of America's Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Operators
SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES AIR UNIVERSITY MAXWELL AFB United States
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This study examines the Air Force ICBM operators, missileers, and their evolution from the 1950s to 2017. The Air Force has long struggled to embrace and share the story of the missileer and the ballistic missile mission. Rather than provide yet another study on nuclear strategy, proliferation, and deterrence, this paper serves to show how technology, organizational structures, and personnel and mission challenges have influenced missileers as a corps of nuclear professionals for 60 years. The story of missileers has been captured through the periodization of three epochs The Rise of the ICBM Mission, 1959-1989Post-Cold War ICBM Drawdown, 1989-2009 and, Reinvigorating the ICBM Mission, 2009-2017. The influences of technology, organizational structure, personnel and mission challenges, varied in relative influence in each of these periods. Chapter 4 provides analysis from the vantage point of how missileers were developed and promoted through the personnel system throughout the three epochs. The final chapter of this study provides several observations and implications drawn from an assessment of the influences on missileers and the ICBM mission. Missileer heritage has largely been lost from contemporary discourse following two-decades of neglect. The recent creation of Air Force Global Strike Command, its elevation to a four-star command, and establishing an independent 13N Air Force Specialty Code for the Nuclear and Missile Operations officer is demonstrative of contemporary refocusing on the nuclear enterprise. While these actions hold the promise of institutional course-correction, it cannot be assumed a panacea to prevent future service parochialism and functional tribalism that has undermined missileers and the ICBM mission in the past.
- Surface-Launched Guided Missiles
- Personnel Management and Labor Relations