Last week we published a notification that Air Force personnel had lost a belt full of ammunition for a grenade launcher near Parshall, North Dakota. After being unable to locate the explosives themselves, they called off their search and offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to their recovery.
As if the missing ammunition wasn’t troublesome enough, before the week was over, it hit the news that an M240 machine gun also turned up missing during a routine inventory search. While these incidents probably aren’t on the same level as a 2007 incident in which some nuclear warheads went missing for a day – resulting in 70 airmen being punished – they certainly didn’t reflect well on the Minot Air Force Base. And, as a result, a commandwide inventory of weapons was ordered.
When I wrote about these issues a week ago, I suggested that simply acknowledging mistakes wouldn’t be sufficient enough. The military has high standards and they believe in accountability. This proved to be true this week as the Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs issued a press release stating that:
“…91st Missile Wing commander, Col. Colin Connor, relieved Col. Jason Beers, 91st Security Forces Group commander May 23, due to a loss of trust and confidence after a series of events under the scope of his leadership, including a recent loss of ammunition and weapons.
“Beers was responsible for ensuring the 91st SFG was trained, organized and equipped to secure 150 Minuteman III missiles and launch facilities and 15 missile alert facilities geographically separated throughout 8,500 square miles of the missile complex.”
The fallout apparently didn’t stop with Col. Beers either. Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago – who was the superintendent of the 91st Security Forces Group – was removed from his position for the same reasons.
Col. Beers’ responsibilities were obviously very significant. Perhaps we can understand just how significant if we consider what a Minuteman III missile is and how many of them are in the United States. These missiles are intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBM’s. According to an ABC News report last October:
“The U.S. Air Force maintains a fleet of 406 Minuteman III ICBM missiles located in underground silos across the plains states, each carrying multiple nuclear warheads.”
Those “plains states” are North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. And, as mentioned earlier, Col. Beers had the responsibility for ensuring that the 91st Security Forces Group “was trained, organized, and equipped to secure 150 Minuteman III missiles”. In a nutshell, he was responsible for the security of 37% of the Minuteman III missiles in the United States. That’s pretty serious stuff. It makes a person wonder how much more disciplinary action is yet to come?
If you’re interested in a more light-hearted write-up on this issue, one blogger took to writing a piece of satire about it. You can read that by clicking here. I must admit, it’s pretty darn good.