341st OSS: Enabling the fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emerald Ralston
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series about the 341st Operations Support Squadron.

Senior crew instructors and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Code controllers are critical to making sure the mission of the 341st Operations Support Squadron gets carried out smoothly by making sure the instructors are properly qualified to teach the nation's front line of defense and by providing the mission essential information for command and control of the weapons. 

Senior crew instructor duties 
Every missileer at Malmstrom goes through extensive training to ensure they are qualified and capable to carry out the mission. But who trains the trainers and makes sure they are qualified to train, and guarantee the material being taught is relevant and accurate? 

Two ICBM senior crew instructors are responsible for classroom and simulator instruction to crewmembers, pulling alerts in the missile field and teaching all incoming instructors, said Capt. Steven Brown, 341st OSS senior ICBM weapon system instructor. They also observe new instructors while they perform classroom or simulator instruction, and then recommend new instructors to the OSS commander for certification. 

"By ensuring quality training is provided to the crew force, we guarantee the operators in the field are extremely proficient and well prepared to execute the mission of this wing," Captain Brown said. 

A typical day for senior crew instructors includes observing instructors, reviewing training materials for technical accuracy, giving trainer rides in the missile procedures trainer or being on alert in the missile field. 

They also rotate with the operations group standardization and evaluation shop to perform weapon system advisor duties. During their weeks to be the WSA, they are on call at all times to provide the crewmembers in the field with reach back for technical guidance and assistance. They also review and coordinate all of the training and evaluation scripts used in the simulators, classroom lesson plans and slides. 

"To sum it up," Captain Brown said, "OSS senior crew is responsible to the OSS commander that all weapon system training provided to crewmembers is of the highest quality and all OSS weapon system instructors are qualified to provide that training." 

ICBM codes controllers
The Codes Flight controls one of Air Force Space Command's identified 13 critical areas on Malmstrom and is essential to the wing's strategic deterrence mission. The 17 members of this section provide the code components to allow maintainers and operators to safely operate and maintain the weapon system and maintain layered positive control and nuclear surety of Malmstrom's ICBMs. 

"As the chief of operations it is my responsibility to ensure all wing coding activities and Wing Code Processing System operations are performed in accordance with our technical orders and instructions," said Capt. Darrel DeLeon, chief of ICBM wing codes operations. "It is my job to provide oversight and guidance to ensure perfect coding operations." 

Wing codes is a 24-hour operation split into two 12-hour shifts. The morning shift generally prepares and issues code components to the maintenance teams who are scheduled to perform maintenance for that day. Then the evening shift recovers the code components, verifies the components when they are returned from the field and ensures all the paperwork is completed correctly. These operations are in the hands of nine officers, five enlisted members and three Department of Defense civilians. 

Some people may think codes are a string of numbers, operators or maintainers plug into a system, but codes are actually encrypted pieces of equipment that fit into the Minuteman III weapon system. They allow the ICBM to be enabled and launched upon Presidential direction. There are six types of codes that came to us from the National Security Agency. They are secure and encrypted so only the president could issue an order to unlock and launch a weapon, said Dave Decker, 341st OSS senior code's instructor. 

"The most important thing we do is provide nuclear surety and positive control of Malmstrom's ICBMs," Captain DeLeon said. 

Positive control is making sure there is a secure and positive launch control link between the President of the United States and the launch control centers. Emergency action messages and sealed authenticator procedures provide this secure and positive link to the manned nuclear forces. The positive control requirement is satisfied by secure code systems used to extend the positive control link from the missile combat crew in the LCC to each launch facility. These codes and code systems are complex and their function is to provide an element of the layered command and control for each weapon. 

The nuclear surety aspect of the codes mission stresses the prevention of an unauthorized launch, pre-arming or loss of a weapon. ICBM code systems authenticate launch critical commands and the LF security status and protect the integrity of the software that controls these functions. The codes used to provide this control are secure - no one is allowed to have access to a complete code, Captain DeLeon said. Rigid control procedures and code systems design protect the codes from disclosure. ICBM code systems provide maximum security, safety and control for the ICBM force while meeting the operational mission. 

Training is also a vital part of the support role. The codes flight supports the operations group, maintenance group and security forces. A three-day initial training and monthly follow-up training is provided on the codes system for everyone who handles a code. 

"Overall, our job is to provide direct mission support for maintenance, operations and the LCC by providing required coding materials," Captain DeLeon said. 

Bringing it all together 
All of these mission essential components of the OSS make it possible for Malmstrom to provide the nation with the strongest strategic deterrent in the world, every day. 

"I'd like to think we're situated in the hub of everything the wing does whether it be security, maintenance, or operations," said Lt. Col. Mark Allen, 341st OSS commander. "And I'd also like to think we're leading the wing and it is critical we have the best people in this squadron to make sure that effort is done very well. We will do whatever it takes to get this mission done in the OSS." 

All sections of the 341st OSS - facility managers, instructors, codes and others - come together to create a cohesive unit to ensure our nation's strategic deterrent mission remains the best of the best. 

"My folks have continually sacrificed for the betterment of the wing. We have really tried to lead the wing in a humble manner to help the team succeed, and we do that with the best people in the ICBM business, right here in the OSS," Colonel Allen said.