To the Nuclear Airmen of Malmstrom

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Stanley
  • 341st Missile Wing commander
It's almost surreal. If someone had told me when I was a boy that I'd get to serve in the U.S. Air Force, I wouldn't have believed them. If they had told me I would command a wing, I would've laughed in their face. You see, that sort of thing was reserved for "privileged" people. At least that's what I thought as I grew up in Kokomo, Indiana.

Working with my dad, we cleaned bars, dance halls, worked in cornfields, and renovated old, run-down houses for minimum wage. This work gave me a sense that there was a whole world out there that just wasn't meant for the likes of me. I didn't mind at all. In fact, I was grateful for any chance I had to be with my dad, or to help him make ends meet. There was just something about back-breaking, dirty work that made me sleep well at night. I didn't think about it much; this was just my world. My goal was simply to make my dad proud ... and to not let him down.

Then an opportunity came in 1984. The Air Force placed a bet on me. They gave me a scholarship to go to college and become an officer. I can still remember what the air smelled like outside when I opened that letter from Uncle Sam. An incredible sense of gratitude caught me. Now, 24 years later, I have that same sense of profound gratitude as I've been given yet another opportunity by our Air Force. They placed another bet on me. Now, my main goal is to make you proud ... and to not let you down.

Life has taught me many things. But, none as powerful as this simple concept: If you serve with a heart of gratitude, you'll do the right thing when no one is watching. That's the secret ingredient the 341st Missile Wing must have in order to earn, gain and keep the confidence and trust of our leaders, our allies and the American people. It is also how we will earn, gain, and keep the respect and fear of our nation's adversaries. This is vital, because we are the guardians of doomsday. That isn't an exaggeration. You see, our invisible, thankless mission is to prevent world wars. Just let that soak in.

My firm belief is that the world is simply a bigger, more complex version of the playgrounds we all spent time on when we were in elementary school. On that playground was quite the cast of characters. There was the quiet kid who just wanted to be left alone, the loud-mouth who was all bark and no bite, the sneaky kid who always managed to stir up trouble and the mean kid who would start fights with those he thought he could beat up. Then, there was the good kid who wouldn't put up with the bully, and who stood up for those who couldn't (or wouldn't) defend themselves. When the good kid was tough, the mean kid would back down, or stand a good chance of being embarrassed in front of everyone. The playground would then be filled with laughter and good times. But, when the good kid was weak or unwilling to confront the mean kid, the playground became a nightmare for everyone. In our world, we must always remember that we Americans are the good guys. We are mankind's last great hope. For all our many shortcomings, we are the only thing between mankind and tyranny.

Together, we begin a new chapter at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Our country and the free people of the world are counting on us to be ready and strong. We will do the right thing when no one is watching. We will support, defend, maintain and operate our Minuteman III weapon system with disciplined compliance. We will pick each other up when we stumble. We will be there for the American people. We will do all this without fail, because we are unrivaled. After all, we are the nuclear Airmen of Wing One.