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First command ensures nuclear precision, compliance, accountability

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rose Richeson
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
Air Education and Training Command aligned its staff with headquarters Air Force, creating a new directorate that began operations in February to strengthen the focus on training for the Air Force's nuclear enterprise.

The new office, AETC Nuclear Operations, Plans and Programs, is led by Richard Mihalik who has been involved with the nuclear enterprise for more than 31 years after pulling his first missile alert in 1978.

"We are on a mission to re-establish a culture of accountability and rigorous self-assessment to ensure the highest standards of excellence," Mr. Mihalik said.

Seventeen years after the Air Force experienced its largest organizational and supervisory change ever with the stand-down of Strategic Air Command, the nuclear enterprise was left defragmented. The Nuclear Enterprise Roadmap, released Oct. 24 by senior leaders, points to other events like base realignments and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a lead cause in the erosion of the nuclear culture.

"In the First Command, we have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to impact every Airman," said Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, AETC commander, in a Roadmap excerpt, referring to AETC as the first major command all commissioned and non-commissioned officers experience in their careers.

From the beginning of the accessions process through the entire continuum of training and education, AETC is responsible for launching this mind-changing cultural shift, Mr. Mihalik said.

"Making sure nuclear weapons are controlled in a safe, secure and reliable nuclear surety program says we've developed a culture, or process, by which we can assure the nation that nuclear weapons are always under two-person control," he said.

With funding received in the past six months, training facilities and equipment are being updated for Airmen in all 11 Air Force nuclear-related career fields.

"It's all being updated to be made as realistic or representative of the operational environment as possible," Mr. Mihalik said. "An Airman in the AETC nuclear training pipeline should see an increased and focused emphasis on adherence to technical data ensuring precision, compliance and accountability."

Training curriculums at Maxwell AFB, Ala., Keesler AFB, Miss., Sheppard AFB, Texas, and Vandenberg AFB, Calif., AETC's primary locations for nuclear training and education, are under reassessment through utilization and training workshops. The new directorate will host a combined workshop in October focused on eliminating gaps in the level of nuclear surety training within nuclear career fields.

"A credible nuclear program begins with capable and trained people," General Lorenz said. "Culture change begins with us - one Airman at a time."