Facility managers run the show

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Malcolm Mayfield
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

Through small towns, past decades-old farms and on a web of gravel roads, Airmen traverse the Air Force’s missile complexes every day to maintain U.S. Strategic Command’s mission of nuclear deterrence, with each and every Airman acting as a cog in the larger nuclear deterrence enterprise.


Airmen from Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and F.E. Warren can spend a large portion of their career deployed to the missile fields, and the Missile Alert Facilities often become something like a second home to some.  Managing those alert facilities for the missile wings within 20th Air Force is a sometimes overlooked special duty assignment within the nuclear deterrence mission--the facility manager.


Facility manager is a special duty assignment offered by the Air Force that all active-duty enlisted personnel can apply for.  Their mission is to constantly maintain the $6 million MAFs, always vigilant and paying attention to every detail, working like oil in an engine, to keep the sites running smoothly.


“We are running a sort of mini-hotel [in the missile field],” Staff Sgt. Robert Sealey, 321st Missile Squadron facility manager. “We make sure everyone has rooms to sleep in, the chefs have everything they need and we keep the sites running smoothly.”


A MAF at times can appear to be just a place to eat and sleep, but in reality each one is a hub for ICBM operations.


Each facility contains all equipment needed in order for the Launch Control Center to function properly, including water, electrical and HVAC systems. The Facility managers provide the vital link between the MAF and base to keep it operationally ready.


On any given day at a MAF, security forces will conduct patrols to protect the inhabitants of the site while chefs provide hardy meals for those very same Airmen. Additionally, missile maintenance teams can be found in the site barracks, resting up for a trip back through the complex after working on a launch facility and missileers are bunkered down in the depths below of the LCC, providing the nation’s nuclear deterrence.


The facility manager is the topside non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the MAF and almost single-handedly ensures the on-site logistics support for one leg of Strategic Command’s nuclear deterrence triad.  Each of the three missile wings within 20th AF maintains 15 of the MAFs, that in-turn control 150 ICBM LFs.   


Facility Managers handle several key tasks while deployed to the MAF.  These tasks include the monitoring of the electrical, water, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; maintaining the access roads, to include snow removal; and ensuring the necessary resources are available for the inhabitants. Facility managers typically have a work schedule of four days at the site and then four days off.

Personnel assigned as MAF managers work a four-year controlled tour that offers $225 extra per monthly as special duty pay, independent work environments and on-average a monthly work schedule with 16 days of work. Airmen working as facility managers are coded on a four-year controlled tour.


Staff Sgt. Jerimiah Jensen, 320th Missile Squadron facility manager, said he became a facility manager to continue to support the nuclear mission while having a controlled assignment. He takes advantage of his free time at the MAF to do school work and study for his next promotion.


Master Sgt. Mark McLaughlin, 20th Air Force MAF Operations manager, said all facility manager training is conducted on-the-job. After three training tours, or 12 days of instruction, facility managers are then certified to perform solo tours at a MAF. There is no official technical school to attend.


While at the alert facility, many of the day-to-day requirements to the site functioning and at peak performance are tackled by the managers and over time they become a jack-of-all-trades.


“If anything goes wrong, you have to be the first person to know and correct the issue before the problem progresses,” Sealey said. “Basically you have to know your site inside and out and [if necessary] get the right people on site to fix the issue.”


Maintaining the working condition of the MAFs requires a lot of care and attention to detail.  When a facility manager arrives at the facility they go through a daily checklist with the departing facility manager to ensure all systems, equipment and personnel are good to go.


Some of the facility managers are accustomed to the travel necessary to reach their sites and the small-unit comradery experienced at the alert facility.   Prior to his current position, Jensen was a security forces member traveling the missile complex just like he does now.  However, he noted that he how had a much greater understanding of how the ICBM alert mission is supported in the missile fields each day.


“Being a facility manager lets you see the big picture,” Jensen said. “As a cop, you just think of it as missile security. But when you are a [facility manager] you see how all the parts fit together.”