Missile Security Forces modify operations, increase lethality, readiness

  • Published
  • By 1st. Lt. Veronica Perez
  • 20th Air Force Public Affairs
Twentieth Air Force’s three missile wings restructured their security forces groups Oct. 6, 2017, and implemented the Missile Security Operating Concept, significantly changing missile field security operations and addressing areas for improvement in defender culture.

"We're delivering a combat deployment mindset by applying 15 years worth of best practices from down range security operations to defending the most powerful weapon system in our U.S. arsenal," said Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander. "Squadrons now have the ability to take total ownership of their daily mission, and defenders are better equipped with the tools necessary to be a truly lethal [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] force."

MSOC began as a beta test at the 91st Security Forces Group, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in November 2016. After evaluating the impact to operations and defenders, 20th Air Force set out to implement it at the 90th SFG, F.E. Warren AFB, and the 341st SFG, Malmstrom AFB, Montana.

Implementing MSOC required each group to stand up an additional missile security forces squadron. The three identical, task-organized squadrons will now work, train and rest together as one cohesive fighting force, said Col. Jason Beers, 91st SFG commander.

"The most significant change under MSOC is that missile complex security shifts from being group commander led to squadron commander led," said Beers. "The entire responsibility for daily security belongs to one squadron commander for their tour. Instead of 900 personnel, squadrons now have more manageable sizes. This change places authority and responsibility at the correct level, enables increased supervision and focuses on developing and caring for Airmen and their families, which directly leads to a more lethal and ready force.”

At any given time, one squadron will be posted in the missile field, one squadron will conduct training and one will be enjoying their protected time off, said Master Sgt. Joshua English, 20th Air Force non-commissioned officer in charge of missile field security.

The rotational construct increases operational flexibility and capability, streamlines communication within the chain of command, establishes battlespace area of responsibility, improves training and evaluation and gives defenders a more predictable, balanced work schedule, said English.

Missile complex security is an intricate operation which involves missile field security, maintenance support, tactical response forces and missile security control. Previously, Airmen who were qualified to execute each of those duties were organized under different units.

Under MSOC, each missile security squadron will now be able to meet all of the missile field security requirements. Squadrons will now train all defenders on specialty skillsets, making them a more combat-capable, lethal force, said Beers.

According to Beers, with the increased manpower in the missile field, the 91st SFG has tracked an average of 32,000 less miles traveled, reduced wear and tear on vehicles and increased work-hour availability.

Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hager, 20th Air Force chief of logistics, commented on how MSOC also affects the maintenance groups because more defenders are available to provide security to scheduled operations at launch facilities.

"This innovative idea has effectively doubled the amount of maintenance that can be performed on any given day at Minot [AFB], and we expect to see similar results at the other two wings as we move forward," he said.

The enhanced operations tempo also impacts defenders' work-life balance, by ensuring they have a more predictable work schedule. Posting squadrons in the field together also provides more opportunities for supervisors and leadership to interact with their Airmen to focus on supporting defenders on and off duty, said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Spencer, 891st Missile Security Forces Squadron fire team leader.

"Prior to MSOC I was getting a little burned out from work. There were more stressors, we were hurting for manning and I was in charge of more Airmen than I could really handle as a senior airman," Spencer said. "All of those issues have been remedied by the changes implemented through this process. My wife and I have an infant at home so having the added comfort of knowing that my time off is really my time has lifted a great deal of stress from my shoulders."

Implementing MSOC across the force will require significant coordination and teamwork from other agencies at the wings. For example, the mission support groups need to ensure there is enough food at the missile alert facilities to feed more defenders at one time, said English.

As MSOC takes shape within each security forces group, 20th Air Force will continue to make adjustments and capture areas for improvement, said Cotton.

"With the ability to 'shake out' the concept at Minot [AFB] for a year, we were able to capture a lot of data and make adjustments before going NAF wide" Cotton said. "We'll continue to evolve our operations as we go forward, and we will continue to empower Airmen at the squadron level across the ICBM enterprise."

MSOC follows the intent of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein to revitalize and empower squadrons. During a recent visit to Minot AFB, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson commented on how the change turns higher headquarters' intent into action.

"I'm also glad to see here the leadership, taking the lead, and looking at how do we revitalize squadrons," said Wilson. "I saw that with the way they have restructured the squadron for security services here. It's a great example of how we can revitalize squadrons."

Col. John Grimm, 90th SFG commander, recently commented on the milestone during a ceremony.

"Obviously we have to be really good at our jobs. We have to make sure that we win decisively, and that we win decisively every time," said Grimm. "Today, there are four security forces units in the U.S. Air Force that can train together as a squadron, deploy as a squadron, work as a squadron and have protected time off. Come implementation on October 6th, we will all join that elite group."