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Saving it for later: Museum curator preserved, returned ICBM parts to active inventory

  • Published
  • By Kate Blais
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
For the past 15 years, the Warren Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and Heritage Museum, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., has collected and preserved specific material that not only highlight F.E. Warren's history, but operationally contributes to a current mission.

Paula Taylor, museum curator for F.E. Warren, was initially approached by the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, to gather available missile artifacts to be distributed to other museums. However, Taylor's foresight to preserve critical ICBM material has paid off for missile maintenance operations, as well as the American taxpayer.

"Historians and curators do not have crystal balls to know what is the best information or best artifacts," Taylor said. "But through educating ourselves on the missions of our respective bases, we make educated guesses on what will be significant in the future."

Taylor's museum inventory of ICBM material has not only become significant, but beneficial for maintaining current Minuteman III systems in a time saving and cost-effective manner.

"Her initial interest centered on gathering materials to support the National Museum of the USAF and the Smithsonian, but her instincts made her believe that these parts would be recycled in the future," Air Force Global Strike Command Historian Yancy Mailes, said. "Her instincts proved correct and she has saved the USAF, the DOD, and the taxpayers millions of dollars and directly contributed to maintaining current operations."

When a system is deactivated, items designated for reutilization are removed and returned to the supply system. Remaining items in excess of immediate government needs are left in place or retained for final disposition and reclamation, explained Mike Knipp, AFGSC ICBM sustainment.

"Reclamation may be used whenever it can provide the fastest method of satisfying a critical requirement or when there is no other known source of supply," Knipp said . "The Reclamation program goal is to reclaim the right parts, in the right quantities at the right time."

He went added that reclamation is especially beneficial when lengthy procurement lead times, repair delays or diminishing commercial sources jeopardize the supply system's ability to satisfy customer requirements.

Just one instance when Taylor's efforts proved to be "right quantities at the right time," included supporting the Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communication Network Program Upgrade, an upgrade to a communication terminal in launch control centers that will allow the ICBM force to receive emergency action messages. Communication racks were identified in storage facilities, as well as in museums.

"The racks that are designed for the launch control center have not been made since the Minuteman III weapon system came online in 1962," Kerry Sparks, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, said. "Since the racks had not been produced since the 1960's, and we were low on supplies, the only other option would have been to procure new racks to put the communication terminals in. This would have required more than $2.2 million and put the program behind several months from production."

Taylor believes preserving the past is worth the effort, not only for educational purposes but for contributing to Air Force idea that every dollar counts.

"It is a win-win situation for our fellow Air Force members and our nation," Taylor said. "We all need to work smarter in these lean economic years. We each need to support each other."