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ICE: Developing the Leaders of Tomorrow’s ICBM Force

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Friedel
  • 20th Air Force
The 20th Air Force ICBM Center of Excellence, commonly known as the ICE, is about more than teaching instructors and evaluators.

It has become a springboard for professional development of nuclear warriors.

In fiscal year 2015, Air Force Global Strike Command provided funding allowing the ICE to send more than 260 Airmen on more than 38 professional development opportunities across the nuclear enterprise--a  sizeable investment in developing nuclear professionals.

The Force Improvement Program presented the ICE, and the wings of the 20th AF, with a sizable challenge in 2015. AFGSC provided the ICE an additional $800,000 allocated specifically for professional development.

The Advanced ICBM Operations Course was the first to be reinvigorated with these funds. AIOC is an in-depth study of the Air Force's ICBM enterprise that includes classroom seminars and TDYs to partner organizations. This course is open to operators, maintainers and security forces Airmen selected by their units.

The ICE worked with work centers and researched courses throughout the Department of Defense, and beyond, to create professional development opportunities for Airmen to gain experience and advanced knowledge in their respective career fields.

Here are a few highlights from the year:

Kwajalein Atoll - Participants traveled to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, to observe the reentry portion of a Minuteman III test launch. While on the island, participants received tours of all radar and satellite facilities, command center and had a seat in all mission briefs. "Feedback from all students was overwhelmingly positive," said Master Sgt. Jason Catchings, 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. He also noted that the highlights were getting to watch the re-entry system/re-entry vehicle come down out of the atmosphere, as well as an island tour.

20th AF Women's Leadership Symposium - Hosted by the 90th Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, dozens of women attended the symposium and gained professional development through networking and mentorship, while capitalizing on diversity within the Air Force. Feedback gathered revealed that 88 percent of attendees felt that the event exceeded their expectations, especially in the areas of networking, senior mentoring sessions and topics covered.

625 STOS Giant Ball Flight - Many operators got the chance to experience Giant Ball, a UHF radio test involving the Airborne Launch Control Center, from an underground launch control center. This opportunity also took them to the sky, where they were able to observe and participate in the test inside the E-6B aircraft, high above the missile fields where they typically work. "All personnel had a greater understanding of the 625 STOS mission and it helped broaden the bigger picture of ICBM operations," said 1st Lt. Randell Calma, 320th Missile Squadron, F.E. Warren AFB. 

Vandenberg AFB Field Operational Test & Evaluation - Participants witnessed a test launch of a Minuteman III missile at Vandenberg AFB, California. They got to observe the process building up to the launch, as well as the launch itself. "Seeing the various locations and responsibilities of personnel involved in a test launch provided valuable insight for members of the nuclear enterprise," said 1st Lt. Micah Hignight, 319th MS, F.E. Warren AFB. Hignight also noted that the feedback from his fellow participants was overwhelmingly positive.

National Capitol Region - Participants were able to see first-hand where strategic military decisions are made. They visited the Pentagon and met with General Officers to grasp the core of their mission at the head of the U.S. military complex. "The highlights of the tour were senior leader perspectives, 9/11 memorial and observation of the training conducted in the National Military Command Center," said Capt. Justin Ahrens, 625th STOS.

Hill AFB Professional Development TDY - Nuclear operators, technicians and munitions personnel toured facilities for simulation testing, weapon system checks and downstage storage/dissection. They saw software and hardware testing facilities and learned about the upgrade acquisition process from the folks who work it firsthand. "We saw everything from blast valves to payload transporters being stripped down for depot level maintenance," said Master Sgt. Chris Isenberger, Task Force 214, F.E. Warren AFB. He added participants were also, "able to see the centrifuge, which most personnel thought was awesome."

Barksdale AFB Higher Headquarters Professional Development Tour - Hosted by AFGSC, this two-day TDY was designed to educate ICBM professionals on both the nuclear and conventional capabilities of bomber operations within AFGSC. Briefings covered operations, security forces and maintenance missions. "We learned a lot about the other platforms available to AFGSC and their capabilities," said 1st Lt. Jared Fairchild, 490th MS ICBM operator, Malmstrom AFB, Montana. "With that information, we can better understand the overall effect the command has when it comes to our nuclear operations."