by Senior Airman Sean D. Smith
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
4/21/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The
5th Bomb Wing's mission of nuclear deterrence is fundamentally built on
readiness -- the capability to deploy assets quickly and effectively if
the need arises. One means of measuring the wing's readiness is the
on-time takeoff rate.
"In March, our on-time takeoff rate was 85 percent," said Capt. Michael
Taddy, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer.
"That's the kind of rate that we expect to see in the summer months.
Common sense can tell you that this job is much harder when it's cold,
so those numbers in winter are really strong."
Readiness is only achievable through the efforts of dozens of units, and
effective synergy between those units is key to good exceptional
"You hear stories about disagreements and people not talking to each
other, but you don't have that here at Minot," said Maj. Thomas
Witkowski, 23rd Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations. "People
get each other what they need."
"This is one of the best working relationships that I've seen between
maintenance and operations," Taddy said. "And it doesn't stop there.
Flyers and maintainers, the Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels -
different units and squadrons, one team. People work together."
He also credits the wing's Flying Hour Program with helping to optimize operations.
"We changed our schedule a little bit," Taddy said. "Allowing us to get
to the jets sooner and have them ready for the next sortie."
One key to great performance in winter is working around the
environment, or if circumstances demand it, falling back on raw
"There are times when we have to deal with the elements," said Master
Sgt. Joel Hoeffner, 5th Munitions Squadron armament flight chief. "That
can be challenging sometimes with older equipment, but our Airmen are
dedicated, and they always persevere regardless."
"There are certain thresholds of cold that can affect our ability to do
our job," Taddy said. "If you can't have your hands on the aircraft, you
can't fix the aircraft. We've been able to overcome that. It takes a
certain caliber of Airman to be out there in negative 32 degrees."
The theater of nuclear deterrence is an intrinsically high-stakes
environment; the driving force that motivates the 5th is the gravity of
"Without the deterrent mission, the world would be a much more dangerous
place," Witkowski said. "We're here to keep us or anyone else from
having to employ these weapons. If the day does come, then nothing's
more important than being prepared."
Recent months have shown that the wing's evolving strategy of readiness
is working, measured by dropping attrition rates. Attrition is the
result of unforeseen circumstances that can reduce the number of sorties
"In February it was 5.1 percent attrition," Taddy said. "Historically
it's around 17 percent. We're much more focused and efficient."
Witkowski believes mission performance comes from healthy and positive units.
"We have a really good set of commanders," he said. "And they're
creating a tremendous environment. It feels like a good place to be."
Taddy credits the efforts of the men and women doing the job, regardless of the weather.
"Number one is always the people," he said. "That's always going to be number one."