Our team’s final day at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was focused on learning about how the Air Force trains its new Air-Launched Cruise Missile and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operators and maintainers. This initial skills training occurs at the 532nd Training Squadron, which is a part of Air Education and Training Command’s 381st Training Group.
Our day began with an office call with Col. Michele Edmondson, 381st TRG commander, who discussed how the 381st TRG provides qualification training for ICBM, space surveillance, missile warning, space lift and satellite command and control operators. She also mentioned that her unit performs initial and advanced maintenance training on ALCMs and ICBMs.
While the training new officers and enlisted Airmen receive is highly technical and challenging, Edmondson said it’s important to give them the right mentorship and tools to understand the importance of the nuclear deterrence and assurance missions.
“Our complete focus is not just on training these Airmen with a capital A. It’s about developing them to be as prepared as they can be when they reach their first duty assignment,” Edmondson said. “It’s not about being just a good maintainer or operator. It’s about being a good Airman. It motivates you. It re-blues you every day to get out with our Airmen and be a part of the technical training pipeline.”
The 532nd TRS is led by Lt. Col. David Franklin who met with our team to share his squadron’s mission and how they help the Air Force accomplish one of its top priorities — strengthening the nuclear enterprise.
“Our mission is to train and educate America’s frontline nuclear professionals,” Franklin said. “We provide realistic, relevant and responsive training, but that’s only half our mission. We also educate. We socialize these young NPS (non prior-service) Airmen, and young officer accessions, into the United States Air Force and the nuclear enterprise.”
Most of the team’s day was spent observing students attending missile operator and missile maintenance courses taught and managed by the 532nd TRS. We watched new missileers going through ICBM initial skills training and met 2nd Lt. Rick Collier who joined the Air Force after a 10-year career as a school principal and teacher. Collier said he wanted to serve, but had reservations about it when he was a young adult.
“I looked at joining when I was younger, and I was initially just intimidated by the process so I shied away from it at first. But, I always regretted it,” Collier said. “I didn’t want to live withthat life-long regret. I constantly reminded myself that there’s a greater good. There’s a constant need to put others before ourselves. I see it in the enlisted members, in the officers I serve with and in my home.”
Tech. Sgt. Dion Dorsey, 532nd TRS facility maintenance instructor supervisor, said it’s rewarding to take Airmen straight from basic training and mold them into future facilities maintenance technicians.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lts. Brian Norton and Alan Brown, 532nd Training Squadron missile operations officers, review a launch procedure checklist during Intercontinental Ballistic Missile initial skills training at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Feb. 4, 2014. The 532nd TRS trains and educates more than 180 missileer graduates every year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder/RELEASED
“I’ve always wanted to be an instructor ever since I got into this job. Even as an evaluator, I always liked to teach people,” Dorsey said. “Not everybody understands what we do, but I always stand proud because it helps other people sleep at night.”
Overall, the students and instructors we met were highly dedicated and committed to serving as future missileers and missile maintainers when they graduate. Seeing firsthand how these officers and Airmen are trained and prepared to take the reins of the Air Force’s nuclear mission, was a humble sight. I’m sure we will see more of this level of dedication to the nuclear mission when we visit the rest of the bases within Air Force Global Strike Command.