Global Strike, USAFSAM hold public Missile Community Cancer Study virtual town hall

  • Published
  • By Col Brus Vidal
  • Air Force Global Strike Public Affairs

Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, held a public virtual town hall June 6 with current and former missile community members and updated the audience with the progress of the Missile Community Cancer Study (MCCS), which recently began Phase 1B of the Epidemiology review, analyzing the Department of Defense Cancer Registry and Veterans Affairs data sets.

“I’d like to thank everybody for joining us today,” Bussiere said in his opening remarks, noting that the MCCS was a team effort involving the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM), The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Congressional leaders, and service members whose advocacy prompted the study.

Leaders from the AFGSC Surgeon General’s office and USAFSAM began the virtual town hall with a summary of the study so far, which Bussiere ordered in February of 2023 in response to concerns from missile community members.

During the first phase of the study, USAFSAM conducted site visits and town halls at Missile Wings and Space Deltas from March to May of 2023. That was followed by the first round of environmental sampling in Summer 2023, which tested air, soil, water and surfaces for a wide range of known hazards.

The environmental sampling found that three Missile Alert Facilities had detectable amounts polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) above regulatory levels on some surfaces, and those facilities were closed while mitigation efforts took place. Launch facility sampling is scheduled to occur in the July-to-September timeframe. An initial round of sampling at launch facilities at Vandenberg SFB, Calif., detected no hazards.

Col. Greg Coleman, AFGSC Surgeon General, described other changes instituted after site visits, to include the cessation of burning activities, the updating of hazard signs, and the scheduling of deep cleans and living space upgrades.

Col. Tory Woodard, commander of USAFSAM, discussed the MCCS epidemiology review, noting that Phase 1A of the review, which consisted of Department of Defense medical data going back to 2001, is complete. Subsequent phases of the study will examine databases outside of the Department of Defense, including VA medical records and state cancer registries with data that goes back to the early 1970s.

Bussiere said that, from his perspective, the command had an obligation to do three big things. “[Our] first obligation is to make sure that we completely understand the risk and exposure of the current force out in the fields of our three missile wings in the Minuteman III weapon system as they perform the nation's most important mission.

“The second thing that I think was probably of great interest to this forum…is having a deeper understanding and documenting the potential exposure based on what we learn in this study with the service in prior missile fields or squadrons that no longer exist.”

Finally, he said, “is establishing a mechanism to document any potential exposure and environmental risks for our airmen so that if there is a health concern in the future that we actually have documentation in a system that archives that for the benefit of our members and their families.”

This addressed a frequent question during the town hall: how the presence of these hazards – known or suspected – would be documented in veterans’ health records. Previously, members of most missile-related career fields (maintainers, facility managers and security forces personnel, among others) were tracked in the Defense Occupational & Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS). Missileers were not previously tracked but will now be fully added by December 2024. The MCCS results are being loaded in DOEHRS as the study progresses.

The command also published a memorandum documenting the presence of PCBs in the existing Minuteman III Launch Control Centers, and the suspected presence of PCBs in previous generations of ICBMs, including Peacekeepers and Titans. The letter is intended for use by veterans who need to document their potential exposure when speaking with their healthcare providers or the VA. More information about VA toxic exposure screenings can be found at their website: