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Culture of change comes full circle

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFNS) -- Culture change throughout 20th Air Force is becoming more apparent at the three missile wings at F.E. Warren Air Force Base; Wyoming; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and Malmstrom AFB, Montana.

Col. Jay Folds, the Task Force 214 and 20th Air Force director of operations, was the first colonel since the mid-1990s to pull alert at a launch control center Feb. 19, in the missile fields near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The catalyst behind this initiative is Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program, an aggressive grass-roots feedback program designed to quickly provide senior Air Force leaders with actionable recommendations for improvement by conducting one-on-one interviews and surveys with Airmen.

"This is a culture change that's long overdue," Folds said. "(It's where) leaders lead the mission from the front, not from behind a desk. Colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors must be in the field leading and being the example of operational excellence in order to build our warrior ethos; they must be in the field coaching, training and mentoring future leaders."

Folds said it was awesome to be back to working the tactical mission, something he hadn't done since he was a squadron commander at Minot AFB in 2012.

"This is where the mission happens -- in our missile fields, where our 45 launch control centers and our 450 launch facilities are located -- where, every hour of every day, great Americans deter our enemies and adversaries and assure our allies of our unwavering resolve," he said.

Folds worked with 2nd Lt. Caryn Morales, the 320th Missile Squadron deputy missile combat crew commander, who has 85 alerts under her belt.

"This is a great opportunity for crew members to work alongside our leadership, while at the same time being able to learn from them, have one-on-one interaction and while being mentored," Morales said. "Our leaders will be able to better understand how we carry out the daily mission, receive feedback and provide further growth and development of the career field, and most importantly, get to know the people behind the mission."

Folds had to re-certify on the weapon system since it has been about three years since his last alert. He said the biggest difference in the training regimen was the removal of the tight constraints previously levied upon the instructors.

"The instructors are free to be more creative in delivering robust and personalized training," Folds said. "(They are) ensuring a level of intimacy in terms of targeted proficiency of the individual crew members. This will lead to a much more capable force, which is all about improving the mission."

Task Force 214 and 20th Air Force personnel are in the midst of ensuring all officers working in the nuclear and missile operations career field, no matter the rank, are combat mission ready in an effort to develop the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) leaders of today and tomorrow, said Bart Beisner, 20th Air Force and TF-214 FIP coordinator.

"Our goal is to ensure our commanders have the operational expertise and credibility to lead from the front, which is a hallmark of American Airmanship and is in line with how the U.S. Air Force conducts operations," he said. "This alert is a milestone in rebuilding the ICBM culture."

We need to recognize our mission partners in Air Education Training Command, especially the 381st Training Group at Vandenberg AFB, California, Beisner said.

"They've been instrumental in handling the increased throughput of (nuclear and missile operations) officers who are re-qualifying in the Minuteman III weapon system," he said.

Although the first colonel to pull alert was here, similar stories will emerge throughout the missile wings at Minot and Malmstrom AFBs in the coming days as senior leaders go through their re-certification training.

"I am looking forward to seeing more leadership deploying to the field and pulling alerts," Morales said. "This (alert) was a true example that we are a team. We are here to support each other and the mission."

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