One of the last official acts of
recently fired U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff (commander of the USAF) general
Michael Moseley, was the reinstatement of the Missile Badge, for any missile
crew member who belonged to a missile crew that was certified CMR (passed some
strenuous inspections to be declared Combat Mission Ready). The badge was used
for decades, until 2005, when it was withdrawn and replaced by the generic
"Space Wings" of the USAF Space Command, which took control of the ICBMs in
part of a major, post-Cold War reorganization of the USAF. In 1992, the
Strategic Air Command (SAC), which had control of air force nuclear bombers and
missiles since 1946, was disbanded and the ICBMs, and their crews, were
transferred to the new Space Command.
SAC had long been the butt of many jokes, for being uptight and
fanatical about security and discipline. Everyone tolerated this because, after
all, SAC had charge of all those nukes and ICBMs. When Space Command took over,
they eased up on the tight discipline and strictness about procedure that had
been the hallmark of SAC for decades.
The old timers complained, but many of the young troops liked the new, looser,
attitudes. But it was the beginning of the end.
were no longer career "missileers", but Space Command people. Time that used to
be spent on studying nuclear weapons security and missile maintenance issues,
was now devoted to subjects of more concern to Space Command (satellites and
communications, for example). Standards fell, efficiency slipped. Then in 2005,
the missile crews lost their Missile Badge, and had it replaced with a generic
Space Command badge. Then, last Summer, there was much angst when it was
discovered that six nuclear cruise missiles had accidentally been mounted on a
B-52 and flown halfway across the country. How could this happen? The old
timers knew. While many of these older officers and NCOs were pleased when SAC
went away early in their careers, they knew that it was that act, and the
subsequent "loosening up", that led to the lax attitudes that put those six
nukes on that B-52.
not return, but some of the SAC attitude has. This is one of those rare cases
where the Good Old Days were better.