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Mighty Ninety Missileer participates in GT-239

  • Published
  • By Glenn S. Robertson and Airman 1st Class Faith MacIlvaine
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Glory Trips can be an exciting opportunity for a Missileer to showcase their knowledge and ability in real time.

Each year, Air Force Global Strike Command randomly selects an operational missile from the field to test the safety and reliability of the nation’s ICBM weapon systems. The Air Force Global Strike Command Minuteman III Operational Test Launch exercise, known as a Glory Trip, is an operational test launch which continues a long history of launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and is used to verify, validate and improve the capability of the nation’s ICBM force.

Two Missileers from the Mighty Ninety were chosen to participate in Glory Trip 239 at Vandenberg from June 5 to Aug. 13, 2021, and one of those chosen is Lt. Keeshia McDonald.

McDonald echoes the sentiment of many who came before her in the honor for being chosen.

“It’s a dream TDY for a Missileer and a once in a lifetime opportunity where we’re able to be present for the missile build up, interact with maintenance personnel and see firsthand how much work gets put in at a Launch Facility,” said McDonald. “Obviously we’re all excited for the big firework show at the end, and to actually turn keys/switches and launch an ICBM. I’ll forever be grateful for this opportunity.”

Her road to GT-239 is one rooted in service, even if that service was once in a different uniform. However, like many who raise their right hand and join the military, she comes from a line of uniformed service.

“As I reached my early 20s, I felt a pull to become part of something that gives back and knew if I didn’t jump and give the military a shot, I’d regret it for the rest of my life,” said McDonald. “So, I enlisted in the Marine Corps for 5 years, I’ve been with the Air Force a little over 2 years now and plan to stay for as long as the military will have me.”

Though she might not have become a Missileer if not for blind chance and the needs of the service, she carries a deep sense of pride in carrying the title of 13N.

“I chose ‘needs of the Air Force’ and Missiles chose me, but whatever factors went into my 13N assignment, I’m grateful for because it’s been a perfect match, said McDonald. “I am incredibly grateful and proud to be a Missileer. Every career field has its own heritage and tradition but there’s a certain uniqueness to this one that I feel connected to, where Missileers have been performing this duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of each and every year for over half a century and it’s humbling to think that I am now a small part of that legacy.”

Though she is driven and focused on her role and what that role means to national security, she ensures that her occupation isn’t her entire life.

“Missileers are required to be away from home to perform our alert duties and that means regularly leaving our families behind. While it’s not Afghanistan, it’s still separation and when you add additional duties on top of that, the work time adds up quickly,” said McDonald. “Luckily, my husband understands the mission and has always been very supportive and flexible of my career requirements, and when I am home, I’m allotted a certain number of recovery days to upkeep a healthy personal life – it’s not all work.”

The struggles of the job, though taxing, are lessened through love of family.

“My husband, Cody Rapol, and I are pretty active people, and we love to explore and try to get out and hike as often as we can,” said McDonald. “Family means the world to me and I’m lucky I get to share my day-to-day with someone incredible and I also have family back home that I talk with regularly.”

With her unique background, she offers a recommendation for those who may be struggling with their military service.

“If the excitement and novelty wears off and the military day-to-day becomes difficult or mundane to you, remember to take a step back and remind yourself why you decided to serve,” said McDonald. “This is not a normal job and we are not average people – we are a small percentage of the population who at some point dedicated ourselves to service, so reflect on your personal reasons, be proud, stay motivated, motivate those around you and always, always, always act with integrity.”

And to those who might question the value of what Missileers and the missile wings do every day, McDonald has strong opinions on the importance of Global Strike Command.

“The AFGSC mission is to provide strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support,” said McDonald. “I think that speaks for itself.”