341st OSS: Executing the mission

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

The 341st Operations Support Squadron is the backbone of many operations integral to guarantee Malmstrom's mission gets completed without a hitch, every day. 

The OSS is composed of many different sections that work together to ensure our combat essential forces are prepared to carry out the mission. The sections include courseware, facility manager training, chef training, missile procedures training, weapons training, scheduling and weapons coding. 

"Our OSS at an ICBM wing is a unique one," said Lt. Col. Mark Allen, 341st OSS commander. "Our operations support is not making sure an airfield is up and running - its making sure our weapons are going to be targeted, coded, commanded and controlled properly, and the crew force, facility managers and chefs are at the maximum combat readiness. We're the guys in the field executing the mission; so we have to be credible to instruct and advise those personnel in the field on how to manage the weapons system. A lot of that mission requires staying up-to-date on all the guidance we're getting from higher headquarters and making sure the crewmembers understand that guidance." 

OSS commander's responsibilities 
Daily operations start with Colonel Allen looking into plans and projects for each day to ensure the utmost readiness of his people. His planning is then supplemented by the many other sections of the OSS. 

"My role as the OSS commander includes working with the other commanders around the base to make sure our training is accurate and takes into account all the other disciplines we command and control in the operations group," Colonel Allen said. "We work with maintenance, security forces and a lot of the outer agencies of our higher headquarters to make sure we're all moving in the right direction. The critical thing we do here is making sure people are ready to execute upon presidential orders to deliver a nuclear yield wherever the President deems necessary." 

Colonel Allen works to make sure the OSS can deliver information and training to the crew force, the facility managers, chefs and to the other groups, and to make sure that is done in a prudent fashion and to the highest levels of combat readiness, he said.
Colonel Allen said the rest of his day is primarily stepping back from the real-time mission, by looking ahead and planning operations such as risk assessment for the missile complex, weather advisories and operations schedules, for two days, three days, a week or a month ahead and to accomplish mid-term to long-term planning for the squadron. 

To guarantee plans are carried out as scheduled, the OSS puts the operators in a classroom or in a full-fidelity simulator called the Missile Procedures Trainer. The MPT simulates an environment similar to what the crews will see in the field. 

"That is the one thing we must never lose sight of - that the mission is done out in the field," Colonel Allen said. "The whole base is here for the mission that is done in the field so we really need to keep that in the forefront of our minds." 

One of the sections of the OSS that makes sure training gets accomplished is courseware. It is an important part of the mission because it is where the training takes place for almost everything a missileer could need to know, from a brand-new second lieutenant all the way up to the wing commander. They conduct this training via classroom courses, MPT sessions and information books. 

"Our job is to get missileers the training they need, produce training packages, supplemental training, changes to technical orders, anything that could change or need to be refreshed in their memories, we train them on," said Capt. Steven Ford, 341st OSS courseware manager. 

Two days each week are training days. The six members of the courseware department give briefings and slide shows, followed by tests at the end of each session. The tests involve all systems general knowledge, security, safety, driving and road conditions, the personnel reliability program - anything and everything a missileer would need to know. 

"The most important thing we train on is the weapons system - how the capsule interacts with the missiles in the field and how to deal with everything that happens out there," Captain Ford said. "We work with maintenance, security forces and communications to teach the missileers everything they'd need to know." 

Missileers in the courseware section are selected from tactical squadrons, and they pull two regular alerts each month to maintain their own proficiency as operators, Captain Ford said. 

Facility management
Another major responsibility in the OSS is facility management - ensuring the missile alert facilities are maintained and looked after every day to provide the highest possible quality of life for the Airmen who spend the majority of their time in the field. 

"My responsibility as FM trainer is to put out lesson plans and train the squadron on-the-job-training instructors about the equipment at the MAFs," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Clark, 341st OSS FM instructor. "Since this job is a special duty assignment, we get anyone from chaplain's assistants to facility maintenance team members who actually worked on the equipment who want this special duty. We have a wide variety of personnel to bring the training down to; to meet the needs of the individual. By providing this training, we can get them out to the field, show them how the equipment works and how it is used, give them systems knowledge and explain what to do if something breaks." 

Facility managers also get monthly training throughout the year. 

"We do training on 100 percent of our tasks over the year, broken up into monthly training," Sergeant Clark said. "We do CPR, self-aid buddy-care and fire situation training for the new FMs coming in and then refresher training every two years for the 56 existing FMs we have at the moment." 

Having FMs is important to the OSS mission because if they weren't present at the MAFs, day-to-day operations would be left to the security forces members who post to the field, Sergeant Clark said. 

"We're out there to make sure security forces members don't have the added responsibility of facility maintenance," Sergeant Clark said. "We're also there to act as a mentor to the chefs who post out, as well as the security forces Airmen. We do trouble shooting, too. Due to the vast mileage of the complex, if we can trouble shoot the equipment before maintenance has to come out, they can bring the right parts to fix the issues so our MAF doesn't go down. If the MAF goes down, that's a potential impact to the launch control center going down, and if the LCC goes down, we can't complete our mission. We do have a big role as FMs; it's just not always visible to everyone until a piece of equipment breaks." 

The OSS is the go-to squadron for all things mission-related, training and preparing the men and women who accomplish these mission-critical tasks day-in and day-out. 

"Our mission is to work together to provide the combat ready people and the nuclear forces as part of the wing mission to make sure we sharpen that combat edge," Colonel Allen said. "We take care of the mission critical targeting, mission critical nuclear coding, training of all disciplines of the operations group that command and control the nuclear weapons here at Malmstrom."