MAFB Missile Wing "In Crisis" - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

MAFB Missile Wing "In Crisis"

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17 officers at the Minot Air Force Base have been temporarily relieved of their duties watching over a portion of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

The move came last month at the base after a March inspection revealed that a large group of personnel had failed to meet standards.

Perry Olson has more on the decision and what the next steps are on base.

The personnel, all part of the 91st Missile Wing at the Minot Air Force Base spend much of their time below ground at launch control centers like this -- with their fingers, literally, on the buttons that could launch nuclear warheads anywhere in the world.

In emails obtained by the Associated Press, Lt. Col. Jay Folds illustrated the seriousness of the matter -- saying, quote "We are, in fact, in a crisis right now."

91st Missile Wing Commander Col. Robert Vercher today told us that was the exact message that needed to be delivered.

(Col. Robert Vercher - 91st Missile Wing Commander) "I thought his email was appropriate. It is what you would expect from commanders and units with our responsibility and at the end of the day, a safe secure and effective deterrent force is our primary job and he was calling us back to that standard."

The first indication of trouble came after a March inspection that ended in very low marks for the wing. 17 members of the 91st had failed either a written test, or a simulator test so they were taken off the job. Vercher says they hold their personnel to high standards...and when those standards aren't met, action is taken. That said, he is confident they will again meet and exceed those standards soon.

(Col. Robert Vercher - 91st Missile Wing Commander) "But I have every confidence in those 17 crew members that they will come back to being a full certified ICBM crew member."

That process is expected to take about two months...perhaps longer, maybe shorter...but the Commander has faith that this failure will result in better performance going forward...

(Col. Robert Vercher - 91st Missile Wing Commander) "It is about high standards and critical self assessment and I have every confidence in our crew members that we certify and allow them to do this job."

In Minot, Perry Olson, KX News.

The 17 who were relieved of their duties marks the most ever at one time for the Air Force.

The Air Force did indicate that the security of the nation's nuclear force was never at risk.

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