Missileer gets rare opportunity to learn from Navy

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Valle
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Air Force Global Strike Command has recently announced a new avenue for nuclear and missile operations officers for professional development. The new Striker Trident Program is a joint Air Force - Navy program designed to support professional development of company grade officers who are trained and qualified in similar nuclear deterrence missions.

"The idea for an intercontinental ballistic missile/submarine-launched ballistic missile officer exchange program has been around for decades, but never came to fruition," as said by Brig. Gen. Michael Fortney, the AFGSC director of operations, in a recent interview. "The recent ICBM Force Improvement Program highlighted the merits of such an exchange to Lt. Gen. Wilson and Maj. Gen. Weinstein, 20th Air Force commander, and they agreed. General Wilson then engaged his counterpart in the Navy, and six weeks later we were selecting candidates."

Two candidates have been chosen for the exchange program: Capt. Patrick McAfee, 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and Capt. John Mayer, 20th Air Force, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and two more people will be selected in the spring cycle to join them at those locations.

"I'm really excited to get outside of the ICBM culture that I have been in for 8 years," Mayer said. "It has been awesome, I'm just excited to get a little perspective. I know our role in the deterrence mission and I know our role of what we provide to the president and I'm excited to see another leg of that triad brings a different way of thinking, a different set of assets, different set of skills to the strategic deterrence mission for the president. That's going to be really exciting. Develop me, hopefully, as a future leader with some joint experience early on."

Mayer will serve two years with the commander of Submarine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Va., along with his wife and two children. McAfee will spend three years with the commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"This is the first opportunity, that I am aware of at least, that an O-3 captain in the Air Force can exchange with our Navy counterparts and learn at a more junior level what they're doing well, how they think about their deterrence mission and hopefully take some of our best practices to them as well," Mayer said. "We are hoping it is going to be an important opportunity for cross flow at a young level."

Mayer believes the program will be an important link for the Navy and Air Force officers to share ideas and practices with one another.

"We need that exchange of information, best practices between these two, really similar legs of the triad but we haven't communicated at the low level, O-3, CGO to CGO," he said. "Hopefully we can learn a lot about how my counterparts are doing it in the Navy and hopefully take some best practices to them."

Prior to Mayer and McAfee moving to their new assignments, they will receive training from AFGSC that will help them transition to a naval assignment.

"This promises to be an outstanding opportunity for our young missileers to experience firsthand how the Navy manages its nuclear forces, learn best practices, and roll those ideas back into the ICBM force," said Fortney. "I'm sure the Navy will do the same. It's truly a win-win program all around."