F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Operating Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles requires commitment, competence, composure and compliance. An operations crew from the 319th Missile Squadron here demonstrates these attributes and more while defending America with the world’s premier, combat-ready ICBM force.
First Lt. Ashley Mirsky, 319th MS missile combat crew commander, and her deputy missile combat crew commander, 2nd Lt. Marie Blair, have been pulling 24-hour alerts together for four months. Both bring different characteristics to their partnership, allowing them to foster a winning team dynamic.
“Marie is very detail oriented, and I’m more of a big-picture critical thinker,” said Mirsky, a University of Alabama graduate. “We are both incredibly competent in our job, and when we’re together nothing gets through us--we’re unstoppable.”
This commitment to excellence is something the crew brings out in one other and is shared among all Airmen within the 319th MS.
“The 319th is a great missile squadron,” said Blair, a University of New Haven graduate. “I can truly say everyone, from leadership to the newest deputies, takes a vested interest in our squadron mission and people.”
The 319th MS currently has 81 members. The majority are missile crews who travel out to missile alert facilities within the 90th Missile Wing’s missile complex in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. The squadron leadership, flight commanders, instructors, facility managers, civilians and enlisted Airmen work together to keep the squadron’s non-stop operations going.
The missile crews are typically paired together for four to eight months. In order for a brand new missileer to start pulling alerts and a deputy to become a commander, they must complete an upgrade sequence—an accomplishment not won without competence in the weapon system.
“Learning to switch gears from the mindset of a deputy to the mindset of a commander was challenging,” said Mirsky. “Learning a new way of perceiving the job with a new deputy was really difficult, but through studying and determination we overcame those obstacles together.”
Upgrading consists of a week of simulations in the missile procedures trainer, three certifications and two distinct evaluations. The process is meant to develop the deputy-commander relationship and intensively hone the skills necessary to perform well together, Blair stated.
Blair and Mirsky agree that they continuously challenge each other in order to become better. While being crewed together, Mirsky has learned to adapt new teaching techniques as a leader, and Blair has learned the importance of humility from her commander.
A future goal for the crew is to participate in Olympic Step, the annual code change operation. The week-long endeavor requires 10 different crews, two at each MAF, each crew operating for 12 hours without rest. This short-term goal is just one example of the crew’s pursuit of excellence.
“We want to take advantage of every opportunity F.E. Warren has to offer, learn from our experiences and grow to be the best missileers we can,” said Blair.
Continuous improvement ensures the ICBM mission is executed safely, securely and effectively by skilled nuclear Airmen. According to Blair and Mirsky, job knowledge is their biggest tool, and they constantly challenge each other through peer evaluation.
“The better we understand our job, the safer, more secure and more effective we become,” said Blair.