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NMOC provides foundation for nuclear surety

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Candy Miller
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force maintains a nuclear stockpile as a deterrent against other nations who may wish the United States harm. Nuclear weapons maintenance personnel, officer and enlisted, have the responsibility to make sure that stockpile is kept safe, secure and ready for use if and when called upon.

Training the leaders that carry that responsibility starts at Sheppard, at the Aircraft Maintenance and Munitions Officers Course with the Nuclear Munitions Officer's Course.

"The training for the nuclear maintenance officers has grown substantially as part of the Air Force's recommitment to the nuclear enterprise," said Ed Wang, an instructor in the 383rd TRS.

He said NMOC strives to produce the finest nuclear maintenance officers who are ready to lead and take on responsibility of the proper maintenance, handling and accountability of the Air Force's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Course changes

Maj. A.J. Griffin, 363rd TRS, stated that AMMOC was previously part of the 360th TRS but in March of 2009 the school house transferred to the 363rd TRS to align with the current Air Force vision of aligning all nuclear training under one unit.

Mr. Wang said the course length nearly doubled from a 17-day course to a 32-day course that includes lessons on the Air Force Nuclear Arsenal, weapons maintenance, nuclear surety, safety, accountability and reporting.

He said another significant addition to the course is the hands-on maintenance training for the officers although at operational units the officers will not perform maintenance. Previously, officers only observed enlisted training, he said.

"This will improve their ability and skills needed to lead their troops and manage their resources," M. Wang said.

NMOC will also employ a new munitions storage virtual trainer, which will serve as a capstone exercise as the officers will assume roles similar to those they will be responsible for in the field. They will have to make and perform duties just like at a real weapons storage area.

"Their actions will not only affect what the computer-based trainer will do, but also the requirements of other Officers in Training who will be working at other stations filling other roles," he said. "The goal is to emulate as much as possible what is required at their operational unit, but in a virtual environment.

Working with nuclear weapons

Mr. Wang said one of the biggest obstacles of working with the weapons is learning to appreciate the importance of the job without seeing the firsthand impacts of the work. He said in other maintenance career fields, work can be done and the maintainer can see the result of his or her efforts.

"Jet engines can be started and run, avionics can be turned on, and aircraft can even take to the sky for a test flight. Even conventional munitions can be loaded and dropped on test ranges to see if they work or we can watch video clips from Iraq or Afghanistan," he said. "Obviously, none of that can occur with nuclear weapons."

Mr. Wang continued by saying it's their responsibility to ensure the weapons are ready for use and ensure they work right the first time, every time, but they can't functionally test them.

"This must be done while also ensuring they remain 100 percent safe all other times. It's an incredible tasking that requires precision and intense attention to detail," he said.

Mr. Wang said that's one of the reasons working with nuclear weapons can be intimidating. Another reason is the high security involved in working with nukes.

"Working in a weapons storage area can seem like working inside a prison, but high security becomes a part of daily life," he said.

NMOC graduates are typically assigned to missile and bomb wings with a mission to provide safe, secure and reliable munitions in support of the wing wartime mission. The next NMOC class will start May 6.