Missile maintenance starts at 532nd TRS

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather R. Shaw
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
With the turn of a wrench and a check of the engine, one of the Air Force's most powerful weapons is checked for its dependability.

The maintenance of that weapon, an air launch cruise missile, is performed by Airmen trained at the 532nd Training Squadron here. For 72 academic days, the students receive instruction and hands-on training to become missile maintainers. The schooling helps the Airmen learn the needed skills to acclimate themselves to the maintenance culture of missiles, said Staff Sgt. Trulyn Williams, a 532nd TRS instructor.

Although the Airmen do not actually play a role in launching the missiles, they perform crucial tasks required to ensure the missiles are ready at all times. Airmen learn how to service key components of a missile, how to use aerospace hardware, and how to run electronic checks. Students also learn the workings of a missile from pre-flight to detonation.

"Our job as missile maintainers is to remove and replace the missile components to keep up with time compliance technical orders," said Staff Sgt. Steven Zimmer, a 532nd TRS instructor.

The training is intense, and the importance of the students' job is instilled in them during the first few days of training. Airmen learn precise functions to maintain the air launch cruise missiles vital to national defense. The missiles are capable of holding nuclear and conventional warheads and play a key role in deterring other countries from launching nuclear weapons toward the U.S. The Airmen support the war effort by making sure the missiles are maintained properly, which ensures the missiles are ready to perform required operations when needed.

The goal and motto the maintainers live by is to "never send a pilot to do a robot's job," said Sergeant Williams. "By having the capability to fly (a missile) un-aided, there is no need for a pilot to enter a danger zone putting his life at risk."

After attending technical training, the students graduate and head to their first duty station - Barksdale AFB, La., or Minot AFB, N.D. During their first duty assignment, graduates train to work with air launch cruise missiles, more commonly referred to as small missiles. Once small missile training is complete, Airmen have the opportunity to work with intercontinental ballistic missiles. By crossing over to ICBMs, the Airmen have more opportunities as to where they can get stationed - including Vandenberg.

As a maintainer at Vandenberg, an Airman may be assigned to the 576th Flight Test Squadron or the 4th Space Launch Squadron. The training provided at the 532nd TRS plays an integral part of the success of the Airmen, especially those later assigned to Vandenberg.

"The training our maintainers receive from the 532nd TRS provides a solid foundation of maintenance skills and techniques and sets them up for success," said Lt. Col. Lesa Toler, the 576th FLTS commander. "They arrive here with all of the qualifications necessary to effectively maintain and test out nation's ICBM weapon system."