Letter: Missile launch officers' bad behavior


I am fortunate enough to know several survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and have just finished reading two new books on their experiences. Eagle articles about various misbehaviors by many officers in charge at our 45 launch centers for nuclear tipped missiles are terrifying.

Of all the people our nation should want to exhibit totally above-board behavior, rather than being involved in cheating on proficiency tests or abusing drugs or alcohol on the job, these must be right at the top of the list. They control missiles containing nuclear weapons many times more powerful than those used against cities in Japan with hundreds of thousands of residents. Our missiles are in part most likely aimed at cities with millions of residents.

The Eagle articles suggest that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Air Force Secretary, Deborah Lee James, are vigorously seeking to find the root cause of the problems with those in charge of our underground missiles.

What are they likely to find? For one thing, it seems that 24-hour shifts on jobs that require maximum alertness is not a good idea.

Perhaps more important is that such an assignment must be right up at the top of any list of vitally important and, at the same time, deadly dull jobs. I remember being in high school and a life guard at a golf club's swimming pool. Only a few kids or other family members not on the links ever used the pool. I never had any more than 40 people in it at one time and very often I was on duty for quite some time with no one, or at least very few swimmers around. Nevertheless, I had to always be alert as I was always legally responsible for any mishap. I was glad to see the summer end. Such a boring job was burdensome.

One more thing about missile launch officers. It was about 15 years ago that I was at a conference on the arms race. One of the speakers was a psychologist or psychiatrist who had served in that capacity at a Strategic Air Command base and he made the comment that those officers put in charge of the missile silos were those who had not proved talented enough to be good pilots. This may be another aspect of the dilemma facing Hagel and James.

Hopefully, a solution will be found. It would seem that the very best solution would be to do away with the underground missile program altogether, working with other nuclear-armed countries, as part of a global nuclear arms reduction program, which was a goal that won our president the Nobel Peace Prize.


Canaan, N.Y.


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