MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Malmstrom Air Force Base is home to the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile mission, a critical part of the nation’s nuclear defense. This is an around-the-clock mission that requires unique support from families, friends and the local community.
The outbreak of COVID-19 revealed just how important these relationships are.
“[Navigating COVID-19] has been challenging because we need to make sure the mission goes, but at the same time we need to preserve [our Airmen’s] mental health,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Bragg, 341st Operations Group superintendent. “I think the base [leadership] has done a great job controlling what they can control and we’re finding new ways to balance everything.”
With the long hours of darkness, social distancing and the pressures of keeping the mission going, Bragg and the wing leadership have been working on finding ways to keep our Airmen, their families and our local community connected.
“We’ve been talking with the Military Affairs Committee, the downtown leaders, and our honorary commanders about ways to foster the connection between the base and the community,” said Bragg. “We’ve been looking into different events we can put on to keep in touch with the local businesses, childcare opportunities and even new facilities.”
Bragg noted how important the local community, and specifically the medical providers during the pandemic, are to Malmstrom’s success.
“Our community is critical to Malmstrom; without them we simply wouldn’t exist,” he said. “The downtown providers have been incredible and are always willing to share resources and information. Our medical clinic has limited resources, so we really rely on them. They were even willing to share some vaccines with our personnel before our shipment arrived. We are so thankful for our community.”
JoAnna Bragg, Chief Bragg’s wife, is a nursing assistant working downtown at a COVID-19 testing center for senior service personnel. Her job is to test medical personnel working with senior citizens for COVID-19 since their patients are at a higher risk.
“We have to pull together and take care of each other [as a community]; we’re a team,” said Mrs. Bragg. “If we want to get back to what we call ‘normal,’ we have to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention` guidelines: wash your hands, physically distance, wear a mask, and consider getting the vaccine.”
She emphasized the importance of human connection and making sure those who need help know where to find it.
“A lot of people are suffering in silence and they don’t have to,” she elaborated. “Reach out! Military members, spouses, families, community members, ask for help. I’m here and we have an open door policy. We can find the resources to help.”
Bragg added onto his wife’s comment, “Social media is a great tool, too, but a lot of the time it doesn’t have the experts. For our Airmen, your superintendents, shirts, chiefs and commanders all want to help and a lot of the time we have the resources to do so. Everyone needs help at some point and suffering in silence isn’t the answer. If you need childcare, financial guidance, anything that can ease the burden, just ask for it.”
Bragg reemphasized how critical the nuclear defense mission, the Airmen executing it and the community supporting it are.
“I love my job,” said Bragg. “It’s Homeland Defense. It’s the number one mission in the nation. Everything starts with Homeland Defense, because nobody cares if you win the away game if you lose the home game. This is a tough job we do here at Malmstrom and we want to make sure you succeed.”
National Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-8255
VA Crisis Hotline: (877) 424-3838
Military One Source: (800) 342-9647
Voices of Hope: (406) 268-1330
Chaplain: (406) 731-3721
Mental Health: (406) 731-4451
Airmen & Family Readiness Center: (406) 731-4900