Missouri Air Guardsmen among chosen for Glory Trip 221 Minuteman III missile launch
By Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 24, 2017
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 131st and 509th Bomb Wings were among a group invited to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California to view a launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, Feb. 7.
Missouri Air National Guard Citizen-Airmen Staff Sgt. James Torrance and Senior Airman David Phillips were chosen to view the launch and tour Vandenberg facilities as part of an AFGSC top performer incentive program, dubbed the “Glory Trip.”
“The trip was an outstanding, eye-opening opportunity to connect the dots of our partners in the nuclear enterprise,” said Phillips, a combat crew communications technician with the 131st Operations Group. “We were immersed with an in-depth tour and briefing into the world of ICBM missiles.”
The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners. The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command use data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation.
“One upside to a rainy and misty continuous weather forecast was that everything was vivid and green,” said Torrance, an electro-environmental technician with the 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, of what is considered typical weather for the winter months around Vandenberg AFB.
“James is a dedicated maintenance professional that is well-deserving of the recognition he's received,” said Lt. Col. Mike Belardo, 131 AMXS commander. “He's consistently puts others ahead of himself, works for the good of the team and always has a positive attitude. Truly, both of our Airmen chosen for the Glory Trip are an integral part of the foundation laid by the Missouri National Guard for the B-2 Maintenance Enterprise.”
The tour included a visit to Vandenberg’s missile alert facility, which Torrance and Phillips described as similar in many ways to Oscar-One, the cold war era MAF located here, but with updates. Tour briefs included the effect of test launches on research as well as how personally significant the launches are to those launching the missiles.
“They pull a missile from the field and bring out the team that had previously been maintaining that missile,” said Phillips. “Then they invite outstanding Airmen to attend the event from each wing in Air Force Global Strike. The Glory Trip is an honor and treat for so many missileers who hope to attend one day.”
Unfortunately for Phillips and Torrance, the launch was pushed back 24 hours, and due to work scheduling at their home base, they could not attend the actual launch. But, both had high praise for GT221.
“Going through all the facilities, seeing their process and learning about the crucial mission they are performing at Vandenberg was amazing,” said Torrance. “I am definitely grateful for this opportunity, and I can guarantee I will never experience anything like it again.”
Lt. Col. Timothy Rezac, 110th Bomb Squadron commander, praised Phillips and Torrance as representatives from the 131st Bomb Wing.
“As our '16 OG Airman of the Year, I can think of no better representative than Senior Airman Phillips for the 131st Bomb Wing and the Air National Guard. Both our Airmen selected for the Glory Trip earned the right to take part in an amazing experience. The ability to interact with other members of the Air Force enterprise will only make them stronger and helps us build the next generation of ANG leaders.
“The Deterrence mission can be a difficult concept to understand for some, but getting a close up view of the ICBM environment really brings it home in combination with what we, as a TFI force, do here at Whiteman AFB. We are always ensuring our warriors are ready to safe-guard our nation and strike our enemies.”
Tech. Sgt. Patrick Alsup and Senior Airman Sarah Smallwood from the 509th Bomb Wing, as well as Airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing attended GT221, which is an incentive program managed by the AFGSC Command Chief Master Sgt. Calvin Williams.
When asked how to relate his day to day job at Whiteman AFB to the AFGSC total force mission, Phillips replied, “We may not be able to visit and rub shoulders with the missile wings, but we do have a huge connection. We work hand-in-hand to have viable nuclear options available to our nation’s leaders at a moment’s notice. The delivery platform is the only big difference.”