Capt. Brooke Lake, right, and Capt. Robert Shannon, left, 341st Operations Support Squadron missile combat crew commander instructor, goes through a launch procedure checklist during simulation training at Malmstrom Air Force Base in February. (Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/Air Force)
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As much of the Air Force is reducing personnel across the board, about 1,100 positions have been added to the nuclear force.
For Malmstrom Air Force Base, that means an additional 216 people.
Those positions will go into intercontinental ballistic missile operations, missile maintenance operations, security forces and operations and support for the 40th Helicopter Squadron.
The additional personnel were announced earlier this year, but the breakdown for Malmstrom wasn’t available when Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command were in town on July 1.
Of the 1,100 new positions, Wilson said during his Great Falls visit that about 300 of those would be in security forces and about 50 missileers. Others will be involved in standing up a new helicopter operations group and some civilians.
Those new people will come from across the Air Force to all three ICBM bases, and James and Wilson expect the first wave of new personnel to come in November.
The new helicopter group will include a new operations support squadron under the group and will be located at F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming. The group will report directly to 20th Air Force and the Task Force 214 commander.
Each ICBM wing will retain its helicopter squadrons and an operations support detachment to provide support personnel. The new helicopter group will include the three helicopter squadrons and the new operation support squadron, according to 20th Air Force officials.
Officials at 20th said the group should be activated this fall, but details are still being finalized.
“These positions, coupled with a renewed focus on the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise, have provided a better quality of life for the airmen who operate some of the nation’s most important weapon systems,” said Col. Marné Deranger, 341st Missile Wing vice commander.
The need for more personnel in the nuclear community was identified through the Force Improvement Program that was established after an investigation into officers at Malmstrom cheating on their monthly proficiency tests.
“The program is looking at better ways of doing business and pushing decision-making responsibility down to the lowest levels,” Deranger said.
Some new measures established through FIP include incentive pay for airmen operating in the missile field, a service medal for ICBM airmen, bonus pay for airmen who successfully complete ICBM training and scholarships for ROTC cadets that choose the ICBM career field.
For the current fiscal year, the Air Force redirected $19 million for areas identified in the Force Improvement Program, during which AFGSC airmen at all levels made recommendations for improvement. Those areas include launch control center refurbishment and infrastructure repairs. Another $3 million were identified for quality-of-life improvements.
For the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, the Air Force has requested $455 million to sustain ICBM squadrons, ICBM helicopter support and critical communication areas.
The proposed budget also identified $154 million in other requirements from the force improvement program, including readiness, training and improvements to launch control facilities, among other improvements.
Earlier this year, Malmstrom received $2.86 million for upgrades identified through the program, plus $1 million for quality-of-life improvements.
The funding received so far at Malmstrom includes $467,000 for intercontinental ballistic missile weapons system parts and $200,000 for parts for the minuteman integrated life extension program known as Rivet MILE.
The base also received $2.19 million for launch control center refurbishment.
The quality-of-life improvements at Malmstrom include updated kitchen equipment and working gear for the missile alert facilities, as well as reopening the base pool and resurfacing the gym floor in the fitness center.
Other improvements include: wall lockers at the missile alert facilities, computer chairs, fire station mattresses and box springs, paint and security cameras for dormitories, carpet steam cleaners, light bulbs, pool table equipment and computers.