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Nuclear Missile Wing's "Sagging Morale" Has an Upside

June 7, 2013 ·

Its personnel may be depressed, but at least they're not launching nuclear weapons.

Its personnel may be depressed, but at least they’re not launching nuclear weapons.

Nuclear launch capsuleFollowing up on his story of the17 launch crew members of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., who were removed from active duty, Robert Burns of the Associated Press reports:

"Officers with a finger on the trigger of the Air Force's most powerful nuclear missiles are complaining of a wide array of morale-sapping pressures, according to internal emails obtained by The Associated Press.

"… Key themes among the complaints include working under 'poor leadership' and being stuck in "dead-end careers" in nuclear weapons, one email said. … The complaints also said there was a need for more experienced missile officers, a less arduous work schedule and 'leaders who will listen.'

"Taken together, the complaints suggest sagging morale in arguably the most sensitive segment of the American military."

Obviously, in

… the nuclear missile business, morale is not a trivial matter. Mental state is treated as a vital sign — like physical health, criminal record and technical knowhow — that must be monitored to indicate whether an individual is fit to be trusted with weapons of such destructive power.

Revisiting a key reason for “sagging morale”

… the shrinking role and size of the U.S. nuclear force and, consequently, a reduced sense of purpose among launch crews who do 24-hour shifts in control centers buried deep below ground.

Bear in mind, says Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in a quote:

"You can't take away the fact that the mission they sit and wait for" — to launch a nuclear attack — "is very unlikely to ever happen,"

Catch the implication? Apparently, what the sensitive psyches of “missileers” require to feel needed is the opportunity to start the launch sequence for any or all of the 150 nuclear-armed ICBMs they control at Minot.

In other words, when it comes to their mental health, wouldn’t we rather have missileers "sit in a hole in the Midwest and wait for nothing" (in Kristensen’s words) – no matter how depressed -- than be cheerful sociopaths waiting for a chance to light up the world?