Missile mission runs in the blood for one family of Greentails

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Landon Gunsauls
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

From generations of the same family flying the same tail to parents and children serving together, heritage in the Air Force runs deep. For one missile squadron commander, a display of that heritage has been hanging from his wall for years and has recently become more personal.

Lt. Col. David Bull, commander of the 321st Missile Squadron, has been a missileer his whole career, a profession he shares with his father and even his grandfather. In fact, Bull’s grandfather was the very first commander of the 321 MS. Before then, though, he served in World War II as an aircraft navigator.

“My grandfather was a B-29 and B-47 navigator at first, but in 1964, he had the opportunity to come here and become the first commander of the 321st when we were activated as a missile squadron,” said Bull. “He served in that role for two years and then went off to Strategic Air Command, what we now know as STRATCOM, as a targeteer, then retired out of Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina doing intelligence.”

While Bull was in the reserve officer training corps program, his father was performing space operations while the space operations and missileer career fields were merged. Bull intended to follow in his father’s footsteps and join space operations, but the career fields split and Bull made the decision to stay in missiles, remaining at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, as an evaluator.

As Bull continued to serve as a missileer, the patch that hangs in his office today, the same patch his grandfather had during his time as commander of the 321st Strategic Missile Squadron, took on more meaning.

“My granddad hung this patch in his house, and while he always had a bunch of different patches and going away gifts, that patch was always up there, but I never had any context to it,” said Bull. “I knew what it was, but it didn't really make sense to me until I had commissioned. Unfortunately, by that time he had started having memory issues, so he didn't have a ton of ability to talk about his experience.”

While Bull had never been a member of the 321st until taking command of the squadron, he proudly hangs his grandfather’s patch up on his wall. Bull also notes that both he and his grandfather took command of the same squadron during times of major change for the missile systems they were responsible for.

“When he got here, the Launch Control Centers weren't certified yet, so they were still bringing Minuteman online. We had missiles on alert, but the entire complex was not,” said Bull. As a kind of interesting bookend for the squadron and for the base, during my time here, we are working on the transition from Minuteman to Sentinel. He will be on one end and I will be on the other, and while we won't complete it during my time here, we will start it.”

Squadron command, even without the family tie to the unit, is an important milestone for those officers chosen to the role, yet Bull acknowledges that this opportunity is special.

"We all have our personal motivations for doing things, but at some point, it's going to transcend beyond personal motivation and dedication to the mission,” said Bull. “Any opportunity to lead Airmen is a privilege and an honor, but this one is a little something different for me.”

A tradition of service may be common for some families, but a family heritage of service to the missile mission and to a specific unit is a much less common opportunity.