Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called missile crews on alert at each of the Air Force’s three missile bases to thank them for their service just hours before 2015 came to a close. Selva, who visited sites representing each of the three legs of the nuclear triad shortly after being confirmed last year, said he just wanted to recognize “that we care about what they do because their work is so important to the security of the country, and it’s important that we honor them.” The call is significant because it shows airmen the nuclear force remains a top priority for top Defense Department leaders. The Air Force in early 2014 launched the Force Improvement Program, a grassroots, bottoms up approach to reinvigorating the nuclear force, after it was uncovered that officers were cheating on nuclear proficiency exams. The investigation that followed unveiled widespread and signficant morale issues throughout the force. Selva acknowledged that not too long ago missile launch officers were told they were in a “dead-end” career field, but FIP has created new career opportunities and now young officers look forward to a career in the ICBM field, according to the release. “Young men and women who see a long-term career and opportunity in what they’re doing and [who] understand how important it is. I think that is very significant,” Selva said. (See also Nuclear Force Improvements from the April 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.