U.S. Air Force Nappers Face Discipline

The U.S. Air Force has moved to discipline three ballistic missile personnel from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota who fell asleep while in possession of launch code devices, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, July 25).

"Actions have been initiated, including appropriate disciplinary measures or other sanctions," according to an Air Force statement.  "We demand adherence to the highest standards in all our activities involving nuclear weapons."

The service did not say whether the two lieutenants and a captain would face courts-martial or reviews under Article 15 that would be conducted without a court hearing or open records.

"We cannot release details until the process is complete," said one Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Laurie Arellano.

The three officers from the 91st Missile Wing fell asleep while on duty at a ballistic missile launch site roughly 70 miles from the base.  The Air Force has played down any security threat, noting that the launch codes in the officers' possession were no longer active.

However, it was another black eye for Minot personnel, who in August 2007 mistakenly loaded six nuclear-armed cruise missiles onto a B-52 bomber that then flew to an Air Force base in Louisiana.  While the base has since been recertified for nuclear weapons work, it is set to be tested again this month on nuclear security procedures following a failed test in May (see GSN, May 30).

The base is still working to retrieve a Minuteman 3 ICBM rocket booster that overturned last week while being transported to a nearby launch site, AP reported (see GSN, Aug. 1).  Work was not expected to finished earlier than this weekend, Arellano said (James MacPherson, Associated Press/Bismarck Tribune, Aug. 8).

August 8, 2008
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The U.S. Air Force has moved to discipline three ballistic missile personnel from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota who fell asleep while in possession of launch code devices, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, July 25).