Reservists now pulling nuclear alert at Malmstrom, other ICBM bases
The Air Force has made significant changes to the way it conducts the nuclear mission in recent years and the latest is a program allowing members of the Air Force Reserve to pull alerts at the missile alert facilities scattered throughout multiple states.
In mid-December, Capt. Spencer Huyck became the first reservist to pull alert for the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
He said the program is “awesome” and provides more flexibility and capability for the active duty mission. Having reservists pull alerts can free up the active duty airmen to do more professional development, he said.
The program is also a way for him to continue serving and supporting the nuclear mission part time while going back to school for nursing, he said.
“Incorporating our reserve component into the alert duties of our missile combat crew force creates an entirely new dimension to our warfighter,” Maj. Christopher Boney, 341st Operations Group standards and evaluations chief, said in an Air Force story. “We are now in a position to leverage the talents of our missileers while not restricting them to the traditional construct and demands of active-duty life. We also retain more knowledge and experience within the nuclear community as these members continue to grow and foster new and different pathways within the nuclear arena.”
Huyck was a missileer on active duty and had previously served about three and a half years with the 10th Missile Squadron at Malmstrom.
During that time, Huyck completed 232 alerts and about 7,000 hours of field experience, according to the Air Force.
Huyck left active duty in September and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve.
Huyck said the program had been in the works for awhile and he had to go through an interview process to be selected for the Malmstrom slot.
The Air Force has selected a reservist at each of the three missile wings to pull nuclear alerts to start.
“As of Oct. 26, 2019, Citizen Airmen missileers can continue to be fully combat mission ready and support nuclear deterrence operations just like their active-duty counterparts,” Brig. Gen. Erich Novak, mobilization assistant to the commander of 20th Air Force, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., said in an Air Force release.
On Oct. 26 a reservist pulled nuclear alert at Minot AFB in North Dakota.
Until that day, reservists had been unable to work as nuclear and missile operations officers through they serve in more than 200 career fields across the service, according to the Air Force.
He said it took awhile to go through the process of transitioning to the Reserve and he’ll be back at Malmstrom for four to five days monthly to pull alerts and do other tasks.
An alert is 24 hours in a capsule about 60 feet under ground at a missile alert facility, which controls 10 nuclear missile silos. Each missile squadron is responsible for 50 missiles and has five MAFs. Each base has 150 missile silos and 15 MAFs.
In the Reserve, Huyck is an individual mobilization augmentee and he’ll still be required to meet the same training requirements and certifications as his active duty counterparts but will essentially be a part-time airman.
His wife is also active duty Air Force and they’re transitioning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.
The Air Force Reserve was formed in 1948 under President Harry Truman to serve in times of war and since then, the Reserve has developed into a major command and performs about 20 percent of the work of the Air Force, according to the Air Force.
Huyck said he didn’t know how the program would progress but hoped to see if grow to include more reservists pulling nuclear alerts, especially with the modernization effort to the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
So far, the nuclear and missile operations career field, or 13N, has grow from eight to nearly 40 reservists, according to the Air Force.