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F.E. Warren named top ICBM wing for 3rd straight year

Servicemembers sit inside a nuclear launch control simulator at F.E. Warren Air Force Base used to train missile officers. The simulator is a mockup of a real launch control center.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Omaha Trophy is staying in Wyoming.

A top military commander presented F.E. Warren Air Force Base's 90th Missile Wing with the coveted award, which is given out annually to the top intercontinental ballistic missile wing in the country, during a ceremony Tuesday on base.

"It is so foundational to our national defense to have this strategic deterrent capability that is safe, secure, effective and credible," said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during the award presentation that was attended by about 300 local airmen. "And that piece is due to your efforts, which you provide 24/7 to the United States of America."

F.E. Warren's 90th Missile Wing employs about 3,360 airmen and close to 975 civilian employees.

The Cheyenne-based wing, which is also called the Mighty Ninety, operates and maintains 150 nuclear-tipped Minuteman III ICBMs.

F.E. Warren beat out the two other ICBM bases — Montana's Malmstrom Air Force Base and North Dakota's Minot Air Force Base — to claim the Omaha Trophy for the third consecutive year.

Haney, who oversees the nation's entire nuclear arsenal, said F.E. Warren saw numerous accomplishments during the past year to earn the honor.

These include:

  • Taking part in the successful launch of two test missiles.
  • Completing 105 nuclear convoy missions.
  • Identifying a helicopter fix that was implemented fleet-wide.
  • Overseeing 443 weapon system modifications.
  • Haney also applauded F.E. Warren for passing the many inspections the base undergoes each year.

"You knocked those out of the park, and you know what that is all about," he said. "We have high standards because when you think of this capability and what it means for the country and the world, we do a bit of these inspections for a reason."

The award, however, comes on the heels of a tumultuous year for F.E. Warren and the rest of the ICBM force.

The Air Force recently fired several senior leaders at Malmstrom and ordered a review of operations at all three bases after it was discovered that 96 missileers at Malmstrom cheated on their monthly proficiency exams.

In an unrelated move, Col. Donald Holloway, who commanded F.E. Warren's 90th Operations Group, was fired in March because of a "loss of confidence" in his ability to lead.

And in addition, an unpublished report obtained by The Associated Press last year cited that many ICBM launch officers are feeling "burnout" because of the stress and unrewarding nature of the job. It also claimed that misconduct and behavioral problems among the ICBM forces were higher than the Air Force as a whole.

Top military leaders say they are already implementing reforms to address the cheating scandal and address the morale issues of the missileers and other airmen who are tasked with operating and maintaining the ICBMs.

Haney echoed some of these sentiments Tuesday when he spoke of the importance of the base's mission.

"We are in an all-volunteer force, and many of you have other options that you could be doing," he said. "But you are here carrying out this mission — a mission that every time I'm with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel he asks about and a mission that I know the president of the United States has thoughts about and wants to be excellent."

Col. Tracey Hayes, commander of the 90th Missile Wing, also applauded the work of both the military and civilian members that make up the wing.

"Each one of you, including contractors and civilians, are part of the Mighty Ninety team," she said. "And it is because of your hard work and dedication...that I see excellence."

Hayes added that the airmen need to keep up their work and be cautious about becoming complacent.

"I want everyone to understand that we can't rest on our laurels," she said. "We got to continue to go out there and do the best job we can every day."

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