GREAT FALLS – One year ago the military community was rocked when the news of a drug investigation and cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base came to light.
But since then, the U.S. Air Force has implemented many new programs, and one grassroots approach is helping airmen voice their opinions about what needs to change in the nuclear mission.
“In the drug and test compromise case there were a hundred different of our operators who were investigated,” Colonel Tom Wilcox said.
First Lieutenant RJ Grimley was one of the officers caught up in the cheating scandal.”When it all first started we were asked if we had ever received helped on a test and I said yes I did,” he said.
Grimley is a part of the 341st Operations Group, only received a letter of admonishment, and was put back on alert last April.
“Sixty-six of the 100 have been put back to work. They have gone back through training and have been back to work. So that leaves, you know do the math, 34 in one form or another where we are still working through the process,” Col. Wilcox explained.
Since the scandal broke, one of the biggest struggles for Col. Wilcox, the 341 Missile Wing commander, has been changing the culture.
“I mean people think that culture change is a straight line like this. I mean it starts out and then it looks like a birds nest and it ties itself up inside and out. And you have to course correct to come out. well we’re in that big ball right there,” Col. Wilcox stated.
Last February the USAF introduced the Force Improvement Program (FIP), which gives airmen, who are seeing the problems first hand, a voice in what needs to change in the nuclear mission.
“There are some things that we did real good. That we were able to knock out of the park quick. Some others that have taken a lot longer,” Col. Wilcox said.
FIP has helped restructure the way missileers have been doing their jobs. They are in the process of getting the missileers across all three base’s into the 3 + 3 program.
“The focus is differently more on the training, which in my opinion is what we need to focus on. We are making sure that crew members are being trained for proficiency as opposed to seeing the same tasks over and over again,” 1st Lt. Grimley said.
Now an operator has to be on the line learning the weapons system for three years.After that, they will move on to an instructor, evaluator, or flight commander position.
“The biggest thing were working, moving forward, is the sustainment piece. The weapon system itself,” Col. Wilcox said.
The missiles have been on alert for 52 years and even though they have been kept up, some of the quality of life for operators has fallen to the wayside over the last few years.
“We’ve gone back to the spo, the project officer who works the icbm missile sustainment and logistics and said hey we need to get we need to fix these things, these secondary things,” Col. Wilcox told us.
Through the Force Improvement Program the Survivable Systems Team was born. The sole focus of this team is maintenance requirements and servicing requirements that are in the launch control centers, as well as down in our launch facilities.
“It definitely helps. They have fixed a lot of the problems that have been out at capsules for years some times,” 1st Lt. Grimley said.
He added that even before all the changes, their mission was one to believe in, “I feel like we are coming out stronger than we even were before the investigation.”