It was bad enough when, last April, 17 US Air Force missile officers were relieved for dereliction of duty at the Minuteman III base at Minot, N.D. A commander there decried “rot” in the force that controls the most sensitive tripwire in the nuclear arsenal. The Minot missile wing is made up of squadrons named “Vulgar Vultures,” “Gravehaulers,” and “Wolf Pack.”
The good news last spring, according to an Air Force spokesperson at the time, was that the sister missile wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana was rated “excellent.” Its squadrons have slightly less puerile names: “First Aces,” “Red Dawgs,” and “Farsiders.” But the second shoe fell this month when the Malmstrom officers, too, failed a safety and security inspection. “This unit fumbled,” said Lieutenanat General James M. Kowalski, chief of the Global Strike Command. “The team did not demonstrate the right procedures.” The general declined to elaborate, lest he reveal “potential vulnerability” in America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force.