MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --- Those assigned to care for missile alert facilities and launch facilities containing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles do not deploy to forward areas overseas. Instead, they deploy to areas in the central and north central United States.
“We don’t deploy to foreign theaters of operations,” said 1st Lt. Beau Swain, a deputy missile crew commander in the 91st Space Wing here. “We do our mission here, so those who deploy to forward areas can do their jobs over there.”
Deployed to a missile alert facility located in an 8,500-square-mile area in north central North Dakota, Lieutenant Swain, along with his missile crew commander, pulls duty in an underground launch-control center. Supporting the missile crew top-side in the MAF is a team comprising security forces Airmen, a facility manager and a chef.
These “deployed” Airmen are responsible for ensuring that their MAF and the 10 launch facilities under their control are safe, secure and constantly ready to perform the mission.
The heart of the MAF is the underground launch-control center, staffed by a two-person missile combat crew who are responsible for monitoring the status of the 10 ICBMs under their control. A tested system of authentication codes and hardware safeguards ensures the missiles cannot be launched without valid direction from the National Command Authority.
“We’re responsible for monitoring the status of the missiles and the alarms on the launch facilities,” Lieutenant Swain said. “We also monitor emergency-action messages in the event we’re given the authorization to launch a weapon.”
The facility manager is a “jack of all trades” who ensures the buildings are kept in top condition, and that the facilities have heat and cooling and potable drinking water. In the winter, the manager is also responsible for clearing snow and ice from the facility, and providing a clear path to major roadways.
“I make sure that everything runs properly,” said Tech Sgt. Dan Pistorino, a facility manager with the 740th Missile Squadron here. “We do daily checks of equipment, and schedule any maintenance necessary to keep the facility operating smoothly.”
Since crews typically remain at the facility for four days at a time, each MAF is equipped with a fully stocked kitchen and has a chef assigned. Chefs deploy along with the rest of the MAF crew and provide daily meals to those on duty at the facility.
The other part of the MAF team is security forces. The flight security controller and a six-person security forces crew is on duty 24 hours a day to provide security for the MAF and the 10 launch facilities under the MAF’s control.
Being responsible for security of a portion of the ICBM arsenal can be overwhelming for those newly associated with it.
“At first it’s kind of overwhelming, but eventually you get used to it, and it becomes almost second nature,” said Airman 1st Class Daniel Phelps, a security response team member with the 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron. “We are actually defending the weapons that are defending our nation. It’s an awesome responsibility.”