Just a few more posts to share with you about the cheating nuclear launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The first post from Time Swampland is meant to give you an idea of the types of questions on weapons system test the missileer crews take every month. The weapons system test is an unclassified open-book test. It challenges people not necessarily through what they know (although many missileers know a lot about the weapons system), but with their “status tracking.”
Status tracking is a fancy term for keeping track of all the things being thrown at a missileer while he or she is at work. Many of us had different ways to track status. Some were elaborate, others were simple. My way was to use cereal box strips as bookmarks for Technical Order (T.O.) pages in which actions that needed to be done could be easily seen. If a bookmark remained, that meant an action or two remained on the pages to be accomplished.
The launch control center’s computer and screens were key to helping track launch facility status. But other things, such as overhead lights shutting off, a “popping” noise (circuit breaker), or change in air pressure were also important for noting changes in status–and then knowing which section of the T.O. to reference so things could be made normal again. Even though it’s harder to maintain status tracking during written tests because there are no computers, etc., it can still be successfully accomplished. Status tracking is key to how a missileer stays on top to all the things being thrown at them, either at work or during tests and simulator rides.
So, try to answer a few example weapons system test questions. It’s easy when you have a T.O. around. I was very good at it–to the point of noticing status pop up on the computer screens before alarms went off. It’s amazing how much of this stuff stays in memory, even when it’s been over a decade since I worked with it…. It’s a curse, I tell ya!!!
Now on to the other post. The Scholars & Rogues post is more debatable to me. The premise is: missileers are sad and demoralized because they can’t launch their missiles. I disagree with this premise. Missileers did look forward to launching missiles–but it was launching them from Vandenberg AFB during a “Glory Trip” test shot. This testing is a way to ensure the Minuteman missiles in inventory are still working just fine.
The reason for tracking status was to insure the missiles were ready to launch. The reason for the all the tests missileers take is to ensure they can launch the missiles when necessary. A corollary reason to that is to ensure the missiles never launch unintentionally.
But NO ONE I know looked forward to the circumstances in which missileers are forced to “turn keys.” We all understood the consequences of such an action are quite terrible. We also figured we would never be the aggressor in such a scenario and that whatever’s causing us to turn keys is already on its way to destroying our homes, cities, and country.
So, I know I looked forward to a time where there wouldn’t have to be a “nuclear gun” aimed at another country’s head. Others might’ve seen things differently–but I don’t think anyone relished the thought of launching their weapons in the heat of battle.
And low morale, while a big problem, certainly is no excuse for cheating. It also doesn’t address how officers might be encouraged to cheat.