Two commanders at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota along with four subordinates were relieved of duty this week after failing a nuclear safety inspection in connection to the nuclear stockpile housed there.
(Video Credit: KFYR-TV)
Minot houses two legs of what is known as the “Nuclear Triad” in the United States. The installation is home to the “5th Bomb Wing” and the “91st Missile Wing.”
Col. Gregory Mayer and Maj. Jonathan Welch were removed from their posts after a “loss of confidence” in their ability to lead the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, officials stated on Monday. CNN initially reported the failed security tests as the reason for the “loss of confidence.”
It is unclear exactly why the unit failed its safety inspection. There is no indication of mishandling of a nuclear weapon so far.
Coming close on the heels of the Chinese spy balloon incident, the timing is curious.
Minot also houses B-53 bombers that are equipped with cruise missiles with W-80 nuclear warheads.
Six cruise missiles with W-80 warheads were flown from Minot AFB to Barksdale AFB in northwest Louisiana in August 2007. None of the crew transporting the cargo knew what was onboard.
The land surrounding Minot Air Force Base was selected in 1961 for a new Minuteman I Intercontinental Ballistic Missile complex. In the 1970s, the 150 missile sites in the region were converted to Minuteman III missiles. A Minuteman I stands at the gate of Minot Air Force Base.
The land-based Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is overseen by the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara, a two-star in charge of Air Force nuclear units under the 8th Air Force, sent out a statement on Monday calling the firings “necessary.”
“These personnel actions were necessary to maintain the very high standards we demand of those units entrusted with supporting our nation’s nuclear mission,” he asserted.
Gebara confirmed that he had relieved of duty the commanders of the 5th Mission Support Group and the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Mayer commanded the 5th Mission Support Group and Walsh commanded the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
“Eighth Force continues to safeguard global combat power and conduct around-the-clock strategic deterrence operations in a safe, secure, and effective manner,” Gebara commented. “Our mission is foundational to our Nation’s defense, and we remain committed to the success of that no-fail mission.”
Check this video of #MinotAFB #Airmen along with their @TeamBarksdale counterparts as they participated in exercise Prairie Vigilance. PV tested the 5BW’s ability to conduct strategic-bomber readiness operations. @US_STRATCOM #8thAirForce @AFGlobalStrike pic.twitter.com/i7xH2Uj8s8
— Minot Air Force Base (@TeamMinot) November 23, 2022
The Mission Support Group is in charge of taking care of base facilities for troops and civilians, which involves about 1,600 people. The Readiness Squadron works on planning for deployments and supply chain management.
Two defense officials, who are unnamed, reportedly told CNN that the test that failed was conducted to ensure the safety and security of the stockpile at the North Dakota base. Not only are such tests meant to validate the overall safety and surety of the nuclear weapons, they are also intended to test the unit’s ability to carry out its mission. The results of such a test are understandably classified.
One official allegedly told CNN that the firings were for “non-compliance vehicle and equipment safety inspections.”
Colonel Brus E. Vidal, who is the public affairs director for the Air Force Global Strike Command, said in a statement that he could not confirm the details but said there is clear guidance in place for members to follow.
“We have deliberate and disciplined inspection protocols and we expect 100% compliance,” he told CNN. “Anything less than 100% compliance is unacceptable. It’s that important to us.”
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