by 2nd Lt. Veronica Perez
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
10/22/2015 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A
team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile
Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, launched an unarmed
Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a
simulated reentry vehicle today at 5:45 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time from
Vandenberg AFB, California.
The ICBM's reentry vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for
operational testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles to Kwajalein
Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The 18-member Task Force of missile maintainers and missile operators
arrived in California in the middle of September to prepare and train
for the once-in-a-lifetime endeavor.
1st Lt. Daniel Uresti, 90 MW Task Force missile combat crew commander,
said it was an honor to be selected for the operation and almost felt it
was too good to be true.
"I didn't believe that I was coming until I actually got here," he said.
"Knowing the world is watching our launch is awesome, and as a team we
know we have the responsibility to make sure we do our best."
Test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon
system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and
effective nuclear deterrent. The launch team worked under direction of
the 576th Flight Test Squadron, located at Vandenberg AFB.
1st Lt. Aaron Bonovitch, 90 MW Task Force missile combat crew commander
and operations officer-in-charge, explained how working with the 576th
FTS gave him greater insight into his role as a missile operator at F.E.
"The background and behind the scenes we got to see was eye opening,"
Bonovitch said. "I learned a great deal from the testing personnel and
have a new perspective on our daily operations."
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department
of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from the test
launches for continuing force development evaluation.
Staff Sgt. Johnathon Barron, 90 MW Task Force missile maintenance team
chief, said he has a newfound perspective on how his actions impact the
"It's great to know that I am keeping America safe," he said. "I will be excited to see the data after the test."
The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of
the Minuteman III and ensures the United States' ability to maintain a
strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national
security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.
A huge and critical task for the maintenance team members was assembling
the missile into the launch facility, which traveled over 1,000 miles
from Nebraska to California, Barron said.
"It took a lot of coordination with the personnel from the 576th and
seven full days of work," he said. "I have a better understanding of
what Vandenberg does to prep the missile in order to get the accurate
data needed, while helping us do our job - it's truly a team effort."
The team of young and seasoned Airmen worked closely together to ensure
the missile was prepared to launch. Bonovitch and Uresti agreed learning
more about the crucial role of the maintenance team members was
"We had the opportunity to watch them install the missile into the
launch facility and discussed issues they face when removing or
replacing components of the weapons system," Uresti said. "They continue
to get the job done despite long hours, long drives and severe weather
AFGSC's missile bases have crew members standing alert 24-7 year round,
overseeing the nation's ICBM alert forces. Test launches are conducted
with randomly selected ICBMs from one of the three missile bases,
located at F.E. Warren AFB, Malmstrom AFB, Montana and Minot AFB, North
"Operational test launches are huge undertakings that require skilled
Airmen working together to demonstrate the reliability of the weapon
system," said Lt. Col. Rickey McCann, 90 MW Task Force commander. "We
are showing our nation, our allies and our adversaries the full
capability of the ICBM mission and the dedication and discipline of our
Senior Airman Joshua Isom, 90 MW Task Force electro-mechanical engineer
team chief, said the feeling of being involved in such an important
operation is tremendous and he's thankful for the experience.
"It feels really great to be recognized and offered the chance to be a
part of something not many people in this career field get to
experience," Isom said. "As a missile maintainer, it is pretty awesome
to help in the mission of providing the President of the United States
with a capable nuclear deterrent."
For the members of the 90 MW Task Force, the experience brought them
closer together to create stronger bonds that will pay dividends for the
Mighty Ninety missile operators and maintenance team members, said 1st
Lt. Holley Macpherson, 90 MW Task Force missile combat crew deputy
"We were very honest giving feedback to each other and knowing the
different moving parts of our separate tasks will help us both operate
better," she said. "It's likely we'll never be able to do anything like
this again, but we can take what we learned and share it with our fellow
Airmen back home."