July 25, 2013
About six months after the inspection that pushed the base’s missileers into the national spotlight, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command will return to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to follow up on how the base responded to the inspection and morale among the nuclear crews.
Gen. Robert Kehler said his overall view is that morale is good among the Air Force’s missile officers, but that he “wouldn’t put an exclamatory statement on it either direction.”
Earlier this year, the 91st Missile Wing at Minot received national attention after it received the equivalent of a “D” on an operations inspection conducted in March. Following the inspection, the wing commander said the unit was suffering from “rot” within its ranks. News stories after the inspection said there was a morale “crisis” in the ranks of the missileers, a statement Kehler said he disagrees with.
“I tend to see morale as somewhere in between,” he said July 24. “We don’t see the traditional indicators that morale is bad or that there’s a fundamental, inherent problem.”
However, missile crews still face constant stress because of their job.
“It is not an easy job, it is difficult in terms of the level of intensity that is required,” he said. “It is difficult. It’s not necessarily physically difficult, but mentally it is a difficult job.”
Missile officers are faced with constant evaluations, intense oversight and a job that isn’t glamorous, he said. Crews often feel “under-appreciated for the commitment that you have and for the contributions that you make.”
Following the March inspection, 19 missile officers were sidelined for additional training and have since returned to duty. Both Strategic Command and Air Force Global Strike Command had sent inspectors general to evaluate the inspection and response. Those results have not been released.
In addition to Minot, Kehler said he will visit the other missile sites at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and Great Falls Air Force Base, Mont.