TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile is the United States’ only nuclear cruise missile and, since 1982, it has been a key component of the nuclear triad, providing the nation with strategic capabilities that assure America’s allies and deter its adversaries.
Although the missile was initially designed with a 10-year lifespan, it has been in use for the past 35 years due to the sustainment program managed by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s Missile Sustainment Division here.
While it is hoped that the ALCM never has to be used, it can also never be doubted. That’s where the Missile Sustainment Division comes into play, and with a mission so important they’re working to sustain the future of the division’s team through the 2021 ALCM Summer Training Program.
This is the second time for the ALCM Summer Training Program to take place, which was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Maj. Gen. Anthony W. Genatempo, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, welcomed the students virtually on the first day of class.
The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center is the nuclear-focused center within Air Force Materiel Command, synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of the AFMC commander in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. It consists of five major execution directorates: Air-Delivered Capabilities; Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Systems; Minuteman III Systems; Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Integration; and Nuclear Technology and Integration, as well as several directorates in various functional areas such as contracting, personnel, etc.
Also, Col. Frederick A. Hunt Jr., Air Delivered Capabilities director, paid a visit to the division and welcomed the eager students during the second session of the program.
Systems managed by the directorate include the B61-12 gravity bomb's tail kit assembly, Long Range Standoff Weapon, overseas Weapon Storage and Security System, Secure Transportable Maintenance System, Protective Aircraft Shelter Interior Intrusion Detection System, and ALCM sustainment, as well as interfacing with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration for the management of the B61-12 bomb and W80-4 warhead life extension program life extension programs.
“This is an opportunity for high school aged kids of people who work here to come and get a true experience of what it’s like to work in a program office,” said Ed Rua, Missile Sustainment Division chief. “They’re being exposed to a lot of tools in the program office we use to schedule, to figure out risk and to brief via PowerPoint.”
On Day One of the week-long program, the students were split into groups and immersed into a problem, resulting in them having to brief out how they’re going to put their team together, what they’re charter is and how they’re going to work on it, as well as discussing their risks.
“Somebody has to volunteer to be the program manager, the financial person, contract officer, logistician and engineer,” said Gene Sorrell, program integration chief. “We have two real-life scenarios for the teams to research and develop a plan of action. It could be to resolve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.”
At the end of the week, all of this information is briefed by the students to Rua, as well as other branch chiefs.
“We run kids through the scenarios of some of the real issues we’ve had related to the ALCM and allow them to come up with things to think about and move ahead, how they would go about solving that process, and brief the senior leadership team to get approval to move forward and execute a proposed solution,” Rua said. “These are the real things we do inside of the program office.”
Twenty students enrolled in the program this summer and the division hopes to continue it next summer.
“You don’t really know how high school kids are going to react. I’ve always thought—and still believe—that this is our future,” Rua said. “If we can get high school students interested, not necessarily working here in this office, but finding something that they can build from and be really excited and interested to work in here at Tinker, that’s good for the Air Force, the Department of Defense and for the nation as a whole.”
Select tours, presentations and briefings were provided by a vast array of Tinker organizations which support the division’s mission including 72nd Operations Support Squadron, 557th Software Maintenance Squadron and 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Guest speakers included the Air Force Sustainment Center’s historian and several officers who provided presentations covering aspects of qualifying for the U.S. Air Force Academy, ROTC and Officer Training School for students with interest in serving our nation.