50th Anniversary of historic milestone upon us

  • Published
  • By Col. H.B. Brual
  • 341st Missile Wing commander
On behalf of the men and women of the 341st Missile Wing, we'd like to welcome all visitors who are here to attend the 50th Anniversary celebration of the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile being placed on alert at Alpha 06. It was a historic event back then and it will be a historic event now, with many festivities planned Oct. 10 to 13.

The 341st Missile Wing's history dates back to Sept. 15, 1942, when it was activated as the 341st Bombardment Group. Following a period of redesignation and inactivation, the unit activated as the 341st Strategic Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., under Strategic Air Command.

The wing's first flight of Minuteman I missiles, assigned to the 10th Strategic Missile Squadron, became alert-ready Oct. 26, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Two more strategic missile squadrons - the 12th and the 490th - became operational by July 1963, bringing the wing up to a full strength of 15 flights consisting of 150 missiles.

In August 1964, the Air Force announced the wing would replace its Minuteman I missiles with Minuteman IIs. This replacement program included the creation of a fourth strategic missile squadron at Malmstrom, the 564th. Construction on the 564th SMS began in March 1965. The fourth squadron gave the 341st a total strength of 200 missiles spread throughout a 23,500 square-mile complex, making it the largest missile complex in the world. It covered nine Montana counties (Cascade, Choteau, Fergus, Judith Basin, Lewis and Clark, Pondera, Teton, Toole and Wheatland). The upgrade of the wing's Minuteman Is began in August 1967 and ended in May 1969.

In January 1975, the 564th began replacing its 50 Minuteman IIs with the newer Minuteman III missiles, which were declared operational in April 1975. For years, Malmstrom had the unique distinction of being the only base to operate Minuteman II and III systems simultaneously.

On July 31, 1991, George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, concluding almost 10 years of strategic disarmament talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Bush announced a force drawdown in September 1991, and for the first time since 1962, all of the 341st's 150 Minuteman II missiles stood down. Only the 564th Missile Squadron and its 50 Minuteman III missiles remained on alert.

The wing began reducing the number of Minuteman IIs following the drawdown announcement, replacing the systems with the newer Minuteman III. The program was put on hold during the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and Malmstrom had only 80 missiles on alert. The BRAC called for the closure of the missile field at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., and the transfer of Minuteman IIIs from Grand Forks to Malmstrom. The 341st's last Minuteman II missile was removed in August 1996, and since then the wing has operated only the Minuteman III.

With the conclusion of the Cold War came the eventual transfer of all missile wings, including the 341st, from Strategic Air Command to Air Force Space Command in 1993 and the redesignation of the wing to the 341st Space Wing on Oct. 1, 1997.

On July 1, 2008, the wing returned to its previous designation as the 341st Missile Wing and in August, officially inactivated the 564th Missile Squadron bringing the number of missile squadrons down to three. The 341st Missile Wing currently operates, maintains and secures 150 missiles, providing strategic deterrence for the nation as the wing has continuously done since 1962 - remaining America's "Ace in the Hole."

On Dec. 1, 2009, the 341st Missile Wing, along with all the other missile wings, were transferred from Air Force Space Command to Air Force Global Strike Command and we continue to operate under the Air Force's newest major command. The mission of the 341st Missile Wing is to defend America with safe, secure, effective nuclear forces and combat-ready Airmen.

The men and women of the 341st Missile Wing look forward to hosting our guests for the 50th Anniversary Celebration.