Video game sparks service, deterrence fuels passion

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

While combat-based video games might not always depict the experience of a typical enlisted member, they often inspire people to join the military. Those who are moved to join by gaming sometimes become more passionate about what they do in the military than they were about the game.

For Senior Airman Bryce Kelley, 741st Maintenance Squadron missile maintenance operations controller, serving in the military was something he always wanted to do.

“It was actually a video game that made me want to join the military in the first place, but that was a game about Navy Seals,” Kelley said.

He explained that as he got older he didn’t think Navy Seals were a good fit for him, but because Kelley was attending automotive school, he thought maintenance would be a better fit. He also said he had heard that the Air Force treats people well, so he signed up.

Once he settled on the Air Force as his service of choice, Kelley decided he wanted to be an aerial gunner. However, his recruiter told him there would be a long wait for that career field, so Kelley looked at the list again and saw missile and space maintenance.

When he read the description he thought his main responsibility would be to load conventional payloads onto drones, but when he arrived at technical training he realized he was learning about nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Kelley started working in the missile maintenance operations center in late 2020 and before that was a missile maintenance technician for three years, during which he completed more than 200 missions in the missile field.

In the MMOC, Kelley and other MMOC controllers are responsible for monitoring the bases ICBMs, launch facilities and launch control capsules. If there is a maintenance need at any of the sites or with any of the ICBMs, the controllers will try to troubleshoot remotely. If they can’t fix the issue, they dispatch a team to the site who can.

“As a MMT you only deal with the missile itself, you don’t deal with the electronics or the facility or any of that, you deal with just that missile,” he said. “Here in the MMOC you have to deal with everything. I’m learning more about some of the systems, the capsule itself, running diagnostics and trying to get the missile coded up.”

According to Kelley, the best way to describe what he does is that it’s like a customer service IT department except instead of troubleshooting and fixing a desktop computer, he troubleshoots and fixes one of the most powerful weapons in human existence. 

“Kelley brings his on-site experience from missions into the wing operations center. This gives us greater context of how a specific task may be progressing and a clear understanding of what the team is having to do to overcome any would-be issues,” said Tech. Sgt. Cody Welch, 741st MXS NCO in charge of missile maintenance operations control. “Kelley also provides real time updates to U.S. Strategic Command war planners at the Joint Nuclear Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.”

Now that his first enlistment is almost complete, Kelley plans to re-enlist and will use the experience he’s gained so far to work toward his career and personal goals.

Those goals include retiring from the Air Force and also becoming more involved with the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, also known as the New START Treaty.

According to the U.S. Department of State, The New START Treaty enhances U.S. national security by placing verifiable limits on all Russian-deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons and has currently been extended through Feb. 4, 2026.

“At first, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but the more I’ve stayed in the Air Force and seen the options that I have, I decided that I want to become a New START Treaty inspector,” Kelley said. “What that means is I would fly to Russia and inspect their nuclear missiles to make sure they’re within the regulations of the New START Treaty. Being a MMT gives me a big boost because I deal with the missile itself and I know what to look for.”

One benefit of being assigned to the MMOC is it’s given Kelley more flexibility to use the Tuition Assistance Program to work toward his bachelor’s degree in space studies. When his service in the Air Force is complete, he hopes to move back to Arizona to develop a career in aerospace defense

“It’s a big learning experience joining the military,” he said. “You realize you’re more than just one person, you’re always going to be working as a team and you can accomplish many things. It’s doesn’t matter who you are, what you love, or where you come from. As long as you can do the job you’re going to be the best.”