VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. --- A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test re-entry vehicle today at 5:45 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
The ICBM's re-entry vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for operational testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.
1st Lt. Daniel Uresti Jr. is a 320th Missile Squadron combat crew commander. He said participating in a test launch is rewarding in that he can see the aspects of missile activities he doesn't typically get to see.
"To see the components being built up and talk to the maintenance personnel has been extremely rewarding," said Uresti, a Texas A&M University alumni from San Antonio, Texas. "It helps bridge the gap between operator and maintenance terminology and helps us to understand just how difficult their jobs really are...especially when the weather is bad. These guys still get the mission done."
AFGSC's missile bases have crew members standing alert 24-7 year round, overseeing the nation's ICBM alert forces. Uresti said test launches give the ICBM force an opportunity to show the world that the U.S. has the capability and will to use these weapons should it be necessary.
"We stand ready, every minute of every day, and we know our jobs well," Uresti said. "We literally hold the keys to the most powerful weapons ever developed and we ensure the safety and reliability of these weapons."
Test launches are conducted with randomly selected ICBMs from one of three missile bases, located at F.E. Warren, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota. While at Vandenberg AFB, launch teams work under the direction of Air Force Global Strike Command's 576th Flight Test Squadron and receive launch and range support from Air Force Space Command's 30th Space Wing.
Senior Airman Joshua Isom, a 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron electro-mechanical team chief, said it's an honor to represent the 90th MW in a test launch.
"It feels really great to be recognized and offered the chance to be a part of something not many people in this career field get to experience," Isom said. "As a missile maintainer, it is pretty awesome to help in the mission of providing the President of the United States with a capable nuclear deterrent."
As an EMT team chief, Isom, a Henderson, Nevada, native, leads Airmen dispatched to missile fields located throughout Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. His team troubleshoots electrical and mechanical systems, such as the ground support equipment, security system, entry system to the site, as well as load the Missile Guidance System located on the missile.
He said working as a team with other organizations at Vandenberg AFB has helped him to see the bigger picture and value of ICBM operations.
"Everyone here at the 576th Flight Test Squadron has done an outstanding job in making sure we have everything to do our job safely, securely and effectively," Isom said. "I've learned so much on how the 576th test launches the Minuteman ICBM and how it's tracked during the many stages of flight."
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States' ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.
"As operators, we know our jobs inside and out. Our maintenance personnel are extremely knowledgeable and capable of building up a missile quickly and together we can ensure we get 'bombs on target,"' Uresti said. "The ICBM mission isn't glamorous. The elements can be harsh and capsule life can be rigorous but we know the importance of what we do."