BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. — The commander of Air Force Global Strike Command directed a review of the nuclear and missile operations career field earlier this year, with the goal of creating a self-sustaining career field.
The review was recently completed, and in June, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander, briefed members of the 13N career field at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; and Minot AFB, North Dakota; on some of the upcoming changes they will see starting in fiscal year 2017 as the Air Force begins to implement the 13N restructure.
“As we move forward with this restructure, we’re going to be making changes that will grow nuclear experience and expertise at the wing level; developing our missile operators into the nuclear ‘go-to’ experts needed across the Air Force and the nuclear enterprise when it comes to policies and procedures,” Cotton said.
The first step in the restructure will reduce the number of accessions into the 13N career field, balancing accessions with retention to eliminate virtually all crossflows. In the past, more 13Ns were accessed than needed, with the knowledge that 30 to 40 percent of the officers would crossflow into other career fields after their initial four-year commitment.
“In recent years, efforts to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise have led to more missileers wanting to stay in the career field,” Cotton said. “The Air Force has also made an overt effort to do more recruiting at the (U.S.) Air Force Academy and other universities, informing cadets about the missile career field, and those efforts have been very successful.”
As the 13N restructure progresses, adjustments will be made to grade structures across the entire career field to ensure a more senior crew force at the wing level. This redistribution, combined with additional leadership opportunities following completion of the 3+3 primary operations tours, such as being a flight commander, provides increased nuclear expertise at the unit level. Simultaneously, nuclear-related billets across the Air Force will be reviewed to determine if they are well suited for inclusion in the 13N career field, to ensure nuclear experts are where they need are most needed.
“You are also going to see assignment opportunities at other nuclear-related (major commands) and bases,” Cotton said. “Missile officers will provide these units with corporate knowledge or subject matter expertise about the nuclear enterprise they may not have had in the past.”
Gen. Robin Rand, the AFGSC commander, said the changes will help normalize the 13N career field with the rest of the Air Force.
“However, the biggest and most important benefit will be the level of expertise we’ll grow across the nuclear enterprise,” he said.