Members of an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker crew refuel a B-52 Stratofortress during a Nov. 13 training exercise. (Thomas J. Sobczyk / Air Force)
Air Force Global Strike Command’s effort to grasp morale problems and outline steps to improve the nuclear community is moving beyond missileers to bomber crews.
The Force Improvement Program, which began earlier this year as a way to talk to airmen in missile career fields, including launch officers and other airmen such as security forces, will extend to bomber crews beginning in late May and through June, Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. John Sheets said.
“It’s an opportunity for airmen to propose changes that can make things better and enhance their mission,” Sheets said.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Global Strike Command, began the Force Improvement Program in February. The review, similar to one of the Navy’s submarine community, was launched after earlier reviews identified deep morale problems within the ranks and after a high-profile investigation into cheating by missile officers on a monthly proficiency exam.
Under the program, a group of military members, civilian employees and industry representatives traveled to missile bases in Global Strike Command to speak with junior officers and enlisted airmen about their workload, leadership and family issues. Preliminary recommendations focus on ways to increase incentive pay, and improve base infrastructure and accolades for airmen in the community. “Quick look action teams” formed following the review are finalizing their recommendations to Air Force leaders, which are expected within weeks.
Last month, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced new funding for missile improvements, including $19 million for launch control room improvements and repairs and $3 million for 20th Air Force for quality of life improvements this year. The service is requesting $455 million in fiscal 2015 to fund and improve missile squadrons, repair UH-1N Hueys for security forces and pay for new communication systems. Another $154 million is requested for readiness training and improvements to launch control facilities.
The expansion of the Force Improvement Program, first reported by Foreign Policy, does not follow any recent high-profile morale incidents. The bomber community, however, was involved in a high-profile incident in 2007 — when a B-52 bomber mistakenly loaded with six nuclear warheads flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The incident sparked an Air Force-wide investigation that led to the removal in 2008 of then-Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and creation in 2009 of Global Strike Command.