Faces of GT-243: Malmstrom’s missileers make it happen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tristan Truesdell
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Each year, Air Force Global Strike Command conducts several operational test launches of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile and its capabilities.

These ‘Glory Trips’ afford Airmen selected across AFGSC the opportunity to see their hard work from start to finish – an actual ICBM roaring through the atmosphere and over the Pacific Ocean.

Glory Trips combine the efforts and operations of the three missile wings: 341st Missile Wing from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; 90th Missile Wing from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; and the 91st Missile Wing from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

Three missileers from Malmstrom were nominated to participate in GT-243 by their leadership based on a combination of factors such as availability, professionalism and experience. They travelled to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, where the test launch occurred.

Malmstrom’s task force members for GT-243 were Maj. Armand Wong and Capt. Jennifer Sroczyk from the 341st Operations Support Squadron and 1st Lt. Reagan Batson from the 10th Missile Squadron.

“Glory Trips allow us to test our ICBM systems and to demonstrate our nuclear capability to our allies and adversaries,” said Batson. “The missileers and maintainers of the task force get to see and learn valuable information that we do not have the opportunity to witness day-to-day at the wing.”

The operational test launches of unarmed ICBMs are designed to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

As missileers, formally known as combat crew commanders, they deploy to Malmstrom’s vast 13,800-square-mile missile complex, where each two-member team is responsible for the alert status of over 10 ICBMs at a single time.

“The varying missions at Vandenberg and Malmstrom drive very different procedures,” said Batson. “At Malmstrom, we are focused on the operational side of ICBMs and ensuring we are monitoring and maintaining them in order to continue our mission of strategic deterrence. At Vandenberg, the mission is focused on collecting data to provide to the U.S. Strategic Command.

“For example, at Malmstrom, we focus on the security of our missiles because of our nuclear warheads,” she added. “At Vandenberg, there is no nuclear warhead, but there is a massive amount of data collection technology which drives the primary focus.”

While at Vandenberg, the team was responsible for monitoring the ICBM as soon as it went on alert status, all the way up to execution. Members were tasked with ‘pulling alert’ as they do at Malmstrom to ensure the weapon system remained prepared to launch at any time. However during GT-243, emphasis was placed on data collection.

Throughout the process, they remained in close contact with test conductors of the 576th Flight Test Squadron from Vandenberg to ensure the operational test launch went accordingly, to include performing numerous tests, checks and procedures.

“The procedures here at Vandenberg are very similar to what is done at Malmstrom,” said Sroczyk. “However, since this is a test launch site, the data from the missile is analyzed every day by the engineers - so even the smallest faults need to be monitored and reported.”

Test launches of AFGSC’s assets only occur at Vandenberg. As such, the three coinciding missile wings constantly perform key turn processes to simulate a missile launch.The only difference between the missile base’s operations and that of the operational test launch is the final step – turning the launch key to officially send the weapons system toward its predetermined launch path.

The combined efforts and collaboration of all organizations involved resulted in a successful test launch for GT-243 on the night of Aug. 16, 2022 at 12:49 A.M. Pacific Standard Time. The reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“I have been very grateful for this opportunity to participate in GT-243 and looking forward to seeing the work that everybody has done come together,” concluded Sroczyk. “There is something truly special about seeing a Minuteman III launch. I've been lucky to have seen it twice already, so to be on the team that's making it happen this time is rewarding.”