New commander officially takes over embattled nuclear force

Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, 20th Air Force commander, talks about his vision for the future of the ICBM mission during an all-call Oct. 22, 2013, at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- The new commander of the nation's land-based nuclear weapons arsenal says he plans to restore public confidence in the embattled missile force.

"One thing you'll see is that 99.99 percent of the time, people are doing a really good job," Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein said. "I think what we need to do is step up, do our job every day, take care of the airmen, and things will just fix itself."

Weinstein officially took charge of the 20th Air Force and Task Force 214 during an assumption of command ceremony Thursday at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

The Cheyenne-headquartered 20th Air Force oversees the 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles maintained and operated by F.E. Warren, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

Weinstein had served as its interim commander since October, when his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, was relieved of his post "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his leadership and judgment."

The Air Force inspector general released a report Thursday that showed Carey exhibited "inappropriate behavior," including heavy drinking and rudeness to his hosts during a July training exercise in Russia, according to The Associated Press.

Other recent problems for the 20th Air Force include the disciplining of a security forces group commander at Malmstrom and 17 officers at Minot earlier this year following failed inspections or poor evaluations.

In addition, an unpublished report recently obtained by the AP cited that many ICBM launch officers are feeling "burnout" because of the stress and unrewarding nature of the job.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.

Weinstein, who previously served as vice commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command and a number of other leadership positions within the Air Force, said he understands that the ICBM jobs can be demanding.

But he, like several other Air Force officials who have responded to the AP's report, denied that there are any widespread problems.

"I've been out, and I've talked with individuals ... and the morale is extremely high, and people are doing a good job," he said. "So I don't believe in anything dire (occurring), and people are doing a phenomenal job day in and day out."

Weinstein added that he plans to keep in touch with the airmen and "look them in the eye" to make sure everything remains OK.

He said some of his plans to improve the 20th Air Force include emphasizing training among all ranks and continuously highlighting the importance of their work in terms of the nation's nuclear deterrence strategy.

"I plan to provide them the skill sets to be successful, and we are going to standardize our mission so all the wings (at the three bases) do things the same way," he said. "We are also pushing responsibility down to the corporal level so everyone that is (involved) in the mission feels responsible for the mission, and by doing that, I think we'll continue our service of excellence."

Several top military leaders also spoke of the trust they have in Weinstein during Thursday's ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Global Strike Command, said Weinstein has proven himself in a number of roles since he received his commission through the ROTC in 1982.

"As a leader, he has led in every level n from a flight commander, squadron commander, ops group commander and big wing commander," Wilson said. "And as a leader, what you'll see is that every unit he leaves, he leaves better."

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, added that Weinstein has what it takes to ensure the success and longevity of the ICBM force.

"His credentials, which have already been mentioned, speaks volumes, and I have complete confidence and trust in his ability to carry out this important job with honor, dignity and courage," he said. "(Weinstein) will further enable this incredible team of professionals that make up the strategic ICBM force."

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