Not On Our Watch

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Saomy Sabournin
  • 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Personnel assigned to the 741st Missile Squadron, 91st Maintenance and Security Forces Group, 219th Security Forces Squadron, 5th Medical Group and 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, as well as others responded to an incident in a Launch Control Center (LCC) at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Jan. 10, 2022.

The Missileers on shift in the LCC, Capt. William Yau and 2nd Lt. Michelle Lee, responded per their training and technical orders to various abnormalities. They also noticed a metallic chemical smell, which based on their training, indicated an electrical hazard related to the batteries and motor generator of the LCC.

“The motor generator essentially is a piece of equipment that routes all of our power to the other equipment in the Launch Control Center,” said Capt. Yau. “So upon checking the equipment, I noticed that the smell was indeed coming from [the generator] area and getting stronger.”

Capt. Yau and Lt. Lee took action and began to perform evacuation procedures in accordance with their training and checklists, also known as Boldface. Boldface checklists serve as a series of steps which every crew member memorizes, in order to safely and quickly isolate a hazard, preserve equipment, and ensure safety of our Airmen.

“When you’re training, you try to simulate it as much as you can with that sense of urgency or that sense of danger,” said Lt. Lee. “But in real life, it’s definitely intensified, especially since we don’t often experience these situations in the field.”

While this incident had an immediate impact on the affected LCC, redundancies ensured there was zero loss of mission capability.

“This incident required a wing-wide and local community response that was orchestrated perfectly through the leadership of Lt Col Walker, 741 Missile Squadron Commander, and his missile crews,” said Col. Kristen Nemish, 91st Operations Group commander. “When under pressure, I have confidence in our operators that they fall back on the intense simulations we practice during training events.  I couldn’t be more proud that this team relied on their training and the emergency procedures in place to ensure safety of our Airmen and recovery of the LCC while maintaining combat capability.”

Soon after the incident, the combined response team arrived to check out the motor generator.  Through the hard work of the maintenance Airmen, the LCC was back to fully operational in less than 24 hours.

“[We] went out to assess the [generator] to see if it was actually damaged or not,” said Staff Sgt. Coy Glidewell, a quality assurance evaluator “We determined that [the generator] wasn’t damaged and didn’t need to be replaced, so the maintenance team went out, troubleshot and brought it back up.”

A month later, Col. Christopher Menuey, 91st Missile Wing commander, recognized and coined the combined response team for their efforts and professionalism when responding to the incident.

“It’s always feels a little strange when you’re recognized for events like this because that’s not what you’re thinking about in the moment,” said Capt. Yau, “It’s really doing what you’re trained to do, and making sure everyone is safe while the mission is still getting accomplished.”

The actions of these Rough Rider Airmen proved that in a dynamic environment, Strikers at Minot Air Force Base work around the clock to sustain and maintain the nation’s ground-based, strategic mission.

“The importance of the team aspect is very integral in a situation like this,” said Lt. Lee. “I definitely think this job functions best with teamwork and compromise. Everything works better when we help each other out, that was probably my biggest takeaway from this situation.”