Airmen of GT: 791 MMXS Airmen
participate in GT 245

Written by: Senior Airman Evan Lichtenhan, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Airmen from the 791st Missile Maintenance Squadron (MMXS) pose for a photographer at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The 791st MMXS Airmen help ensure the Minute Man III meets operational standards. Courtesy photo

The Airmen who perform the vital mission of ensuring intercontinental ballistic missiles meet operational standards are some of the most skillfully trained and dedicated personnel in the Air Force. Late last year, a crew of these Airmen from the 791st Missile Maintenance Squadron pulled an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM out of a secure launch facility near Minot AFB to participate in a regularly-scheduled operational test launch.

The launch, scheduled for Feb. 10, marked the first OTL, or “glory trip,” of 2023. There are typically three to four OTLs scheduled throughout the calendar year, each requiring 10 to 12 months of preparation.
“When we have a test launch coming up, a directorate under the U.S. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center will randomly select which missile from which site they want to test,” explained U.S. Air Force Capt. Johnathan Quinlan, 791st MMXS director of operations.

The randomly-selected missile is then securely transported to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, where a joint team of U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen prepare and execute the test launch. Not only do glory trips verify the operational readiness of the Minuteman III in as near to an operational environment as possible during peacetime, they also give missile operations teams a rare opportunity to see their hard work pay off.

“It’s a great opportunity for the teams to go down there and get that experience of watching what they’ve worked on fly,” said Quinlan. “Aircraft maintainers get to see that every day; they fix something up and they get the satisfaction of seeing it take off. But an ICBM maintainer fixes it and then it stays where it is, so sending a team down there is a great opportunity for them to see their handiwork in action.”

Airmen assigned to the 791st MMXS consistently prove their mettle not only by handling one of the Defense Department’s most sensitive missions, but by doing so in one of the harshest and most austere environments in the contiguous U.S. For them, seeing firsthand how their work contributes to the accomplishment of a larger mission can be a deeply rewarding experience.

“The Airmen on the missile operations team really enjoy the glory trips,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Miguel De Leon, 740th Missile Squadron mission lead crew commander. “It’s a different experience than we get at the missile wings. We’ve been able to integrate with the maintenance teams, which has been important in further understanding each other’s experiences and learning about how the mission gets done.”

OTLs like this are performed to demonstrate the readiness of U.S. nuclear forces and provide confidence in the lethality and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. The Airmen of the 791st MMXS have a direct impact on the nation’s security and readiness to defend the freedoms it holds dear.

“You want to make sure what we’re doing here works,” said Quinlan. “And that’s the best way to test it.”

See page B8 for more on the recent unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

You May Also Like…

The Reutilization Rockstar

The Reutilization Rockstar

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --It was a hot day in August when my coworker and I walked into a warehouse with 80s rock music bouncing wall to wall. A cheery face with a grin ear to ear stepped out from behind boxes of equipment and and greeted us with a firm...

Bearing the Weight of Giants

Bearing the Weight of Giants

Aircrafts have changed our way of life. We can reach almost anywhere on the planet in two days or less, and this speed has taken our societies to new heights. It’s amazing to think about the sheer weight of a plane soaring in the air, however, an aircraft’s ability to...


Subscribe to our Weekly Post Brief

Subscribe to our Weekly Post Brief

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from the Northern Sentry

You have Successfully Subscribed!