Charged with employing the world's finest nuclear deterrent force in defense of U.S. interests, 20th Air Force remains focused on sustaining and enhancing the integrated nuclear operations capability of the Minuteman III weapon system.
Drawing on examples of past Guardian Sword events, the first combined technical order rewrite in 20th Air Force history is convening at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to vastly improve the two main TOs used by missileers who operate the weapon system.
The colossal three-week project, known as Olympic Sword, is a 20th AF endeavor that brings junior and senior missile combat operators and missile maintainers together from the command's three missile wings. Additionally, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center engineers, contractors, members from the Technical Order Management Agency office and the 532d Training Squadron from Vandenberg AFB, California, are on the team to efficiently update the 21M-LGM30G-1-24 and 21M-LGM30F-1-23, or dash 24 and dash 23.
The dash 23 deals with the NC2 communication equipment inside the launch control center, while the dash 24 involves the weapon system itself, to include the LCC console and other components.
During their short time together, they've been able to streamline processes, reorganize checklists, create procedures, cut out redundancies and significantly enhance the usability of each 800-plus page TO.
"At times there is a tendency to make change for change sake, but I can honestly say the changes we've made will make a better product for the end user," said Capt. Shane Powell, 20th AF ICBM Emergency War Orders plans and programs chief. "This is a stepping block where we can build continuity, so future rewrites become more efficient to the point where we have not just a quality product, but an excellent product that is going to help everyone do their job better."
Missileers agree the cross-talk with skilled maintenance Airmen was an invaluable part of the process and are excited for the changes to impact current and future missileers.
"Having the maintainers help us streamline procedures and align maintainer and operator language has been extremely helpful," said Capt. Benjamin May, 341st Operations Support Squadron ICBM commander evaluator. "They are extremely knowledgeable and helped paint a picture for why we should make certain changes or why they do things a certain way."
Throughout the project, participants also considered the training impact and ramifications the large-scale rewrite would have at the missile wings and the training schoolhouse at Vandenberg AFB.
Once the new TOs are published, the 532nd TS will review and update every single product used to train incoming missileers to integrate the new information in their course material, said Capt. Ryan Hepler, 532nd TS curriculum development chief.
While the new TOs won't be published until later this year, their impact will be felt at the wings as the missileers and maintainers in attendance plan to share what they've learned with their units.
"This experience has helped me see the bigger picture of our mission, while learning the operator's perspective," said Senior Airman Sterling Perry, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron missile communications team chief. "I now understand why we get some of the questions we do, and I can now take that information back to my fellow maintainers. Once these TOs are published, both missileers and maintainers will be able to do our jobs more efficiently."
The next step is for the Systems Program Office to validate and verify the changes to ensure they work operationally by testing them in the Strategic Missile Integration Complex at Hill.
The Numbered Air Force plans to host more Olympic Swords to bring Airmen together to continually improve the TO processes and in turn, ensure safe, secure and effective ICBM operations.
“One of the highlights was seeing the Senior Airmen team chiefs apply all their field experience to help improve the procedures that will be used by all the missile operators within the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Dan Sutton, 20th AF ICBM Communications manager. “Very few Airmen get to have that opportunity and see that their inputs have such a big impact.”
This rewrite reflects the 20th AF's commitment to continuous process improvement, and many more task forces like this one will continue to leverage Airmen's experience and innovation to improve the nuclear enterprise.