564th Missile Squadron: Earth & Gravel

The story “ICBMs off the books under treaty” on the Great Falls Tribune’s website did not get much attention. In fact, I don’t know if it even made it into the hard-copy of the Tribune because I could not find it in my E-Newspaper this morning.

I thought it was worthy of front page coverage, or at least a place on the front page of the Montana section. I did not see coverage anywhere else. I guess losing 50 missiles and the associated jobs is not as big a deal as it used to be in Great Falls.

UPDATE 04/01/15:  Today I was notified by the Tribune’s Publisher and Editor Jim Strauss that the article had been in the print edition of the Tribune on Sunday, March 22.  It was right there on the front page, which means it’s time to get my eyes checked.  The Western Word regrets the error. 

Those of us who traveled in the missile “field” and worked on or around the missiles, or fought to maintain and increase the missions at the base probably have a different idea. At least I do.

The big news reported in the story by the Tribune’s military reporter is that the Air Force has eliminated 104 deactivated intercontinental ballistic missiles under budget and ahead of schedule. Those 104 include 50 at Malmstrom Air Force Base that were previously operated by the 564th Missile Squadron. The silos were filled with earth and gravel. The 564th was deactivated in 2008, which was due to the New START Treaty.

Continue reading

Montana Senate 2012: START-ing

It’s always interesting to watch elected officials or candidates posturing as they approach election season.  Both sides of the aisle do it and it’s up to the voters to decide how much they like or dislike it.  It’s also fun to write about!

Back in June, I wrote that the key battleground area for the 2012 Montana U.S. Senate race is Great Falls (Cascade County) so Great Falls residents will probably be seeing more and more of Congressman Denny Rehberg and Senator Jon Tester between now and November 2012.

It’s happening and, of course, The Western Word (TWW) will try to keep on top of it! Continue reading

Expand Powder River

It’s been an interesting week for the military in Montana, and it’s not been a good one.

The day before Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester voted to cut the number of missiles assigned to Malmstrom AFB by voting for the START Treaty, they sent a letter to the Air Force stating their opposition to the expansion of Powder River Training Complex in southeastern Montana.

They might as well just ask all military missions to leave Montana entirely, because they have left an anti-military impression with most military supporters across the state and those who make the “big decisions” at the Pentagon.

Here at The Western Word, I’ve written several columns about the expansion. I totally favor it and feel our Congressional delegation is wrong on this issue. (You can read my previous columns about this issue by going to right side of the screen, clicking on “Categories” and selecting “Powder River Training Complex” from the dropdown menu).

So what is new? Baucus and Tester have suggested a new idea: Northern Montana. They think the Air Force should use the Hays Military Operations Area.

As for the reasons they are against the Powder River Expansion, they write that the area has several community airports, general aviation aircraft use the area, there are commercial flights, and that it would jeopardize jobs and harm the economy. They also talk about the stress on livestock and wildlife.

The issues brought up in the letter against the expansion of Powder River are the same concerns one could bring up against using the Hays MOA. Someone in the Baucus/Tester camp who pretends to know a thing or two about military issues failed miserably in writing this letter to the Air Force.

One can only imagine the laughter that came out of the Department of Air Force after getting the letter – probably a deep belly laugh similar to the laugh of Santa Claus…

Maybe a reason our Congressional delegation are so against this expansion is because they have campaign donors living in the southeastern Montana who don’t like it…

Hopefully, some of the supporters of the military in Montana will write a letter of their own to the Air Force and state the case for the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex.

Like I said before, our elected leaders have placed a sign on Montana’s skies saying they are closed. They may lose the F-15s and their attitude against the Powder River expansion probably did not help that situation or the possibility of any military aircraft mission ever coming to Montana.

Fortunately, the Powder River expansion has a very strong supporter in Senator John Thune (R-SD) – who is a member of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. Hopefully, he will use his clout to get it done. He works hard for the military in his state.

Start Treaty: Senate Should Delay the Vote

The United States Senate (the lame-duck version) will probably vote on the new Start Treaty sometime this week (It will need two-thirds of the Senators present voting for it to pass, which is normally 67 Senators). Supposedly this would be a first as no major treaty has ever been ratified during a lame-duck session.

It appears Montana’s two U.S. Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, will vote for it.

It’s easy to say that a vote for the new Start Treaty by Senators Baucus and Tester is basically a vote against the future of Malmstrom AFB, but on a much bigger scale, it is a vote against the future security of our Nation.

The Treaty needs more debate and there are several questions that need answered.

It appears we have given up the farm in these negotiations. President Obama’s goal is to do away with nuclear weapons. This New Start Treaty gets the ball rolling, first by cutting the number of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) from the present 450 ICBMs to 420, and maybe even less – maybe even a whole base or two will get the ax.

Currently, there are three ICBM bases left (Minot in North Dakota, F.E. Warren in Wyoming, and Malmstrom in Montana). They have 150 ICBMs each, which totals 450. In 2007, Tester and Baucus allowed 50 missiles to be taken from Malmstrom to bring the base down to its current level of 150. Local military supporters basically turned the other cheek.

ICBMs are an important leg of the strategic triad that works.

Since the 1960s, ICBM missile sites have dotted the landscape across these states. They are relatively cheap to maintain. These missiles are a deterrent to an attack from Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, or any other nation who feels the need.

Some people who follow this issue believe the New Start Treaty actually allows Russia to increase their nuclear stockpile while the United States will be required to reduce theirs. Some people believe it prevents the United States from deploying a missile defense (why are defensive weapons even being considered in this Treaty?) Others believe the verification portion of the treaty is harmful to the United States.

There are just too many issues with the New Start Treaty for the Obama Administration to push it through the lame-duck Senate the week before Christmas.

Instead of trying to ram this through like they did the healthcare bill, it would be in the United States best interest if they would hold off on this vote until questions are answered and most everyone feels it actually is in the best interest of the United States.

We’re All Alright?

I’ve been traveling the last few days and hadn’t had a chance to comment on some of the stories in the news. But I am back now and ready to offer some commentary.

First up are a couple of defense stories I read:

According to a recent story in the Great Falls Tribune, local and Federal officials who follow Malmstrom AFB apparently believe they will only lose a few missiles under the new START Treaty. Supposedly, each of the three missile bases will lose 10 missiles. Supposedly.

Of course, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus are taking credit for Malmstrom only losing a few missiles, which have not been removed, yet. I guess we should give them credit for that and for allowing the DoD to take the 50 missiles in 2007 (and about 500 jobs). So, good job guys!

The other story that caught my attention was the Montana Air National Guard becoming “operation capable” with their F-15s. I love to hear the F-15s flying overhead (day or night), although our delegation does not seem to want to open up the Montana skies for training.

Congratulations to the members of the Montana Air National Guard, their leadership, former Senator Conrad Burns and others who made this day possible.

But, the most important part of the story was about the plans of the National Guard Bureau to “shift Montana’s F-15 planes to a California Air National Guard unit as early as October 2011.”

Will our “powerful” senators be able to stop it?