F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Twentieth Air Force is made up of operators, maintainers, defenders and support personnel who are tasked with providing the nation and its allies with the most responsive leg of the nuclear triad. Walking the hallways of the Numbered Air Force’s headquarters, sporting an obviously different blue uniform, is Lt. Aaron Stockard who brings another perspective to the ICBM operations division from the nuclear submarine leg of the triad.
Stockard provides important insight as a participant of Air Force Global Strike Command’s Striker Trident program. The program aims to professionally develop future nuclear professionals by placing two missile combat operators from 20th AF in either Submarine Force Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia, or Submarine Force Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to learn about the Navy’s SSBN mission. Likewise, two submarine warefare operators are stationed either at 20th AF, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, or Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. The overall goal of the program is to, “provide a greater breadth and depth of experience for future planners and leaders in the nuclear deterrence mission.”
The Kansas City native arrived at F.E. Warren in June of 2017 and has been learning the ins and outs of the ICBM mission in order to take back what he learns to enhance the entire nuclear enterprise. He took some time to answer a few questions about his nuclear experience thus far.
Q1: Why did you choose to be a submarine warfare officer in the Navy?
“It’s a small, secretive community where junior officers are given a great deal of responsibility from the beginning. Few other communities in the Navy have the daily officer and enlisted interactions as does the submarine force. You work directly with junior enlisted sailors and can have an enormous impact on their quality of life.”
Q2: Why did you apply to the Striker Trident Program?
“It was my number two choice out of 10 listed for shore duty from a selection of more than 50 jobs. I don't think many other junior officers wanted to go to Wyoming, but I went to school and met my wife in Denver. Multiple senior people told me if I ever had the chance I should do something for shore duty outside of my normal community, and I thought an Air Force exchange program was a good opportunity to achieve this.”
Q3: What do you do at 20th Air Force?
“For the first few months I've been here I've tried attending as many TDYs and briefings as I could in order to build up my knowledge of the ICBM mission. I’m currently working on two projects. First, I’m building my own mission brief on submarines and hope to start giving it to groups at F.E Warren in October. Second, I am organizing a 12-person TDY to the Navy Strategic Systems Programs Office in Washington, D.C., and then a ballistic missile submarine tour in Norfolk, Virginia, in November. If I get positive feedback, I intend to work with the ICBM Center of Excellence to make it a reoccurring TDY.”
Q4: What have you learned so far and what will you take back with you to the nuclear submarine mission?
“So far I’ve learned a better understanding of how the Minuteman III weapon system works, current and future issues with the nuclear stockpile, the planning and targeting process, and what organizations outside the triad encompass the nuclear enterprise. When I return to a submarine, I’d like to build a training platform that can easily be adopted by other boats to improve the aspects of the nuclear mission that are not transparent to the daily mission of the SSBN. The SSBN crews are well trained in the execution of their nuclear mission, but lack training in any nuclear weapons aspects outside their mission. I feel I have a good opportunity to bring valuable knowledge back to the submarine force that will improve sailors’ understanding of how their mission integrates into the much larger picture of the nuclear enterprise.”
Q5: Why is the Striker Trident Program important?
“In order to maintain the world’s most credible nuclear deterrence, its future leaders must be well rounded in all aspects of the nuclear enterprise. The Striker Trident Program provides the tools required to build well-rounded leaders that will ensure credible nuclear deterrence into the future. ”
Q6: What are your plans for the future?
“I’ll be at 20th Air Force for 18 more months. The next step in my Navy career will be to attend Submarine Officer Advanced Course in Groton, Connecticut for 6 months. Then, I’ll be assigned a department head billet as either a navigator, weapons officer, or engineer for approximately 32 months on another submarine.”
Q7: How do you like being land locked?
“I love it. It's nice not always being out to sea or standing duty on the boat.”