Mastering the fundamentals: Maintaining our nation's nuclear deterrence

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Mike Lutton and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Orf
  • 20th Air Force

As long as nuclear weapons exist, there will be no mission more central to the nation's nuclear capability and ensuring nuclear deterrence and assurance than maintaining the force. Whether specializing in munitions, vehicles, equipment, aircraft, or mission systems, maintainers across 20th Air Force take pride in safely and effectively completing what must be done to accomplish our national-level mission. You work day and night, year-round, underground and at remote locations in some of the harshest climates in the United States to maintain our nation’s nuclear deterrent, side by side with our operators, defenders and vital mission support Airmen—a national-level mission.

Through innovation, teamwork, discipline, and attention to detail, each of you have overcome numerous challenges to deliver incredible, reliable capabilities. Missile maintainers, you have successfully kept the Minuteman III weapon system on alert for over 50 years. The UH-1N Hueys that support the nuclear mission have been in service for just as long, entering the Air Force’s inventory during the Vietnam War. The effort to keep these aging systems effective and operationally ready takes each of you day in and day out mastering the fundamentals.

Each Airman in 20th Air Force plays a significant role in supporting the mission and ultimately underpinning the nation's nuclear deterrent. Each of you should own your accomplishments and take pride in a job well done. Seize upon errors when they occur and objectively debrief the errors to find ways to improve yourself, the team, and our tactics, techniques, and procedures. Your investment in mastering the fundamentals and ownership of the mission drives excellence and fosters improvements that make us more lethal.

Following procedures and policies, mastering the basic fundamentals, using proper protective equipment, and maintaining the highest level of attention to detail are the hallmarks of a disciplined and professional force. A disciplined unit is a lethal unit.  Leaders within the unit must ensure the team has the right tools, technical data, training, and appropriate amount of time to get the job done right the first time. Leaders at all levels also need to take a step back and observe the situation, see the big picture, and then find solutions that can guide and impact the effectiveness of maintenance practices and policies for future generations.

Our operational tempo is at the speed of nuclear surety. Risk mitigation and clear communication at all levels are essential. Regardless of rank, each Airman has an obligation to speak up when they are concerned and watch out for the safety of themselves and their teammates.  Every Airman, regardless of rank, can call knock-it off at any time.

We are all charged with living by the Air Force’s three core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Each of these values builds trust; the trust we and the American public have in you to successfully carry out our national-level mission. With new weapon systems and aircraft heading our way, we need to be prepared for the opportunities that will bring. This mission demands us to be innovative, creative, and adaptive to the pending tide of changes coming. We trust you--our maintenance Airmen and leaders--to do your very best in keeping America’s nuclear force mission ready, as we have for the last 50 years. The safety and security of our nation depends on each of you.