Facilitating a no-fail mission

  • Published
  • By Heather Heiney
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles, failure is not an option. As the 12th Missile Squadron operations superintendent, Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Falks helps facilitate the wing’s no-fail mission by running the squadron’s missile alert facility management program.

MAFs are at the very center of the ICBM mission. Each facility houses a launch control capsule where missileers spend 24 hours at a time below ground. There, they keep the Minuteman IIIs on target, monitor alarms at the launch facilities, and stay prepared to respond to an order at any moment to employ the most powerful weapon system in human existence.

In addition to the missileers, MAFs also house the security forces members who protect those ICBMs and a force support squadron chef who feeds everyone there.

Missile alert facility managers keep those MAFs running. FMs are in charge of everything to do with the MAF itself. They make sure all necessary supplies are in stock and perform general maintenance and upkeep of the facility. They even plow the snow in the winter and cut the grass in the summer. They run through daily checklists and ensure that all the equipment that supports the mission in each MAF is operational.

“The FMs, more than ever, can make or break a tour for everyone at the MAF,” said Maj. Jesse Haskett, 12th MS director of operations. “They ensure that the security forces and operations personnel can properly recover after a shift and maintain resiliency for their next shift. They also play an informal leadership role with the security forces Airmen and the chefs.”

Falks said that while he posts out to the field to perform FM duties when necessary, most of his time is spent taking care of all the other FMs in the squadron. This could include building the schedule, overseeing training and performing general administrative duties.

This role became even more complex when COVID-19 reached Montana and the way the 341st Missile Wing’s no-fail mission was carried out had to change.

Falks was one of the Airmen who went out to the field for two weeks during the initial lockdown of the local area. Due to the nature of COVID-19 and the constant flux of new information, for several months the changes kept coming.

Over time, there was a significant transformation in how Airmen deploy to the missile fields, which sites they go to, how long they stay there and what their roles are in the squadron when they’re not out in the field.

“Falks has made a huge difference by leading our facility managers through a very difficult 15 months,” Haskett said. “He has been crucial to communicating the rationale for changes that affect our enlisted force, especially some changes that were not initially popular.”

Before he accepted his current special duty assignment here at Malmstrom, Falks was one of the “Dirt Boyz.” He joined the Air Force as a heavy equipment operator in the civil engineer career field where he was stationed at Pope, Hickam and Moody Air Force Bases. He also completed a short tour at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea and deployed seven times – three times to Iraq, three times to Afghanistan and once to Qatar.

“From the many different countries I’ve gotten to go to and the many different people I’ve had the privilege to work with, I’m sure that I’m a much better person for it,” Falks said. “We have some great Airmen that work to get the job done and for the most part always look out for each other.”

According to Falks, one time in particular his fellow Airmen looked out for him was when one of his children was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder a few years ago.

“The Air Force and, more specifically, my command at the time made sure I was able to stay with my child as much as possible in the hospital while we were going through the diagnosis phase and then working to find a good treatment,” he said.

The doctors told his family there were two medications that could help with his child’s condition, but the more effective of the two was expensive and most insurance providers wouldn’t approve it. However, Tricare did approve the medication, which allowed his child to stay on that medication until the disease went into remission.

“The support that we received from my squadron and the blessing of not having to worry about the money side of the situation made a difficult time in our lives much easier,” Falks said.

Haskett said that Falks volunteered to share this story with the entire squadron to reinforce that the Air Force demands a lot at times, but it will also take care of its Airmen and their families without hesitation.

“Falks has a work ethic and a way with people that drives me to be a better officer and person in general,” Haskett said. “In short, he’s the kind of guy I joined the service to work with.”