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Missile Technicians: Always Ready

Enlisted missile technicians have supported nuclear deterrence since the late 1950s by ensuring that the USAF’s strategic missiles are always ready to launch.  

Following successful test flights of the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in 1957, the Air Force began recruiting enlisted combat missile personnel to operate and maintain them. The responsibility of working on nuclear warheads required not only vast knowledge and training, but also sound judgment and professionalism.

Their work fell broadly into three categories: monitoring control systems, maintaining missile sites, and maintaining the missiles. Working together, technicians inspected, maintained, operated, and repaired missile systems with thousands of parts and millions of connections to guarantee mission success.

Early crews quickly learned that working in the missile field brought psychological challenges. Their days involved repetitious practice, drill, and rehearsal in underground bunkers. Crews worked twenty-four hour shifts in isolated areas, many miles from base, and every shift demanded a state of extreme preparedness. Operating the world’s most destructive weapon with advanced technology created immense stress, not to mention the added pressure from escalating Cold War political tensions. A clear purpose kept them focused: to safeguard the country from a devastating nuclear attack.

The first enlisted missile technicians devoted themselves to peacekeeping through rigorous preparation and high standards—a tradition of excellence which continues with today’s technicians.

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