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Silent Sentinels: It takes every piece to complete a puzzle

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

In the world of ICBMs, the mission is completed by a number of organizations working together to maintain a safe, secure and effective force.

As a photojournalist, I get to see a wide spectrum of what Mighty Ninety Airmen do day to day. Recently, I spent three days in the missile field with the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron, watching maintainers perform unique tasks to sustain the wing’s 150 Minuteman III ICBMs and the associated launch facilities.

Each day brought something different, giving me an inside scoop into the life of a maintainer and how they contribute to the nuclear deterrence mission. 

Day 2: Teamwork makes the dream work

My second day out brought new insight into how each section of the 90th MMXS works together to accomplish the mission.

I spent most of the morning walking around the 90th Maintenance Group high bay, speaking with Airmen from different shops and learning how they directly impact the overall mission. Almost everyone I spoke with pointed out the notion that their roles were only small parts of a grand performance.

“Our sections are only pieces of the larger picture,” said Master Sgt. Dion Dorsey, 90th MMXS electro-mechanical team NCO in charge. “We wouldn’t be able to do our part without another section doing theirs.”

After I spent a few hours with different shops, I traveled to an LF and watched as a hardened inter-site cable systems team, an electro-mechanical team and a group of contractors prepared to remove the site from the network. Once completed, a simulated cyberattack was performed on the site’s electrical systems to ensure necessary safeguards were still in place.

Here is a little known fact about the missile field: each and every missile alert facility and LF are connected through a network of cables to ensure constant communication between the sites. This allows the missile crew inside the launch control center of a MAF to monitor the electrical systems of 10 LFs. 

The HICS section is responsible for maintaining that network, which involves responding to any connectivity issues, similar to the work the 90th Communications Squadron performs on base.

“The HICS shop fits into the bigger picture by providing critical communication paths between LFs and MAFs,” said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Miller, 90th MMXS HICS technician.

By the time I arrived on site, the team had dug a pit – which was about seven-feet deep, four-feet wide and 15-feet long – to reach the cables connecting the LF to the MAF. They were performing a cable cutback, which involved cutting the network cable in half.

The process was slow and precise, as the Airmen used a sheath ripper to remove the outer casing protecting the cables. Their meticulous work lasted a few hours, as they avoided any accidental cuts in the wires.

Before I left, I checked in with the EMT Airmen who were monitoring the electrical systems inside the LF. Their guidance allowed the HICS team to operate without damaging the internal systems.

As I drove back to base, I understood why there are so many different career fields in the 90th MMXS. Each section specializes in one facet of the job and relies on one another to complete their operations.

"We are a team, and each section plays a vital role in completing the mission,” said Senior Airman Jacob Blanton, 90th MMXS HICS team chief. “Without each individual section, big or small, the system would fail. I feel very confident working together to accomplish the overall goal, which is to have a sustainable weapon system that our country can count on to be a reliable deterrence measure."

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about the 90th Maintenance Group’s mission.