Pentagon chief in rare visit to nuke missile base
F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is making a rare visit to an Air Force nuclear missile base, hoping to boost morale among the men and women who operate, maintain and safeguard the nation’s Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles.
Officials have said those service members are increasingly tired of working in what can seem like oblivion. They win no battles, earn no combat pay and only rarely are given public credit of any kind.
That changes Thursday, if only for a day and for a small number of them.
Hagel said Wednesday he realized the ICBM workforce has morale issues, and his visit Thursday was intended to show that their efforts were appreciated.
“It is lonely work,” he said. “They do feel unappreciated many times.”
He said he spoke to a small group of nuclear weapons officers in November.
“I asked about their futures, and they were very honest, and most of them said they were unsure,” he said. “Well, morale is a huge part of that.”
F.E. Warren Air Force Base, which is headquarters for the organization in charge of all 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, has about 3,100 enlisted airmen and officers and saw 12 courts-martial in 2013, compared with nine the year before, 12 in 2011 and eight in 2010, according to Air Force statistics provided to The Associated Press last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
In each of the past four years, the courts-martial rate at F.E. Warren was higher than in the Air Force as a whole.