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Air Force officials fired over failed nuclear security test

By Christopher Kirkman
|
March 4, 2023

Two Air Force commanders and four other officers were fired after safety failures related to nuclear weapons at a U.S. Air Force base.

Col. Gregory Mayer and Maj. Jonathan Welch, along with four subordinates, were removed from their roles this week related to safety failures at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

"Actions were necessary"

"These personnel actions were necessary to maintain the very high standards we demand of those units entrusted with supporting our Nation's nuclear mission," Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Gebara, commander of 8th Air Force, said in a statement.

"Eighth Force continues to safeguard global combat power and conduct around-the-clock strategic deterrence operations in a safe, secure and effective manner," Gebara said. "Our mission is foundational to our Nation's defense, and we remain committed to the success of that no-fail mission."

The statement also noted, "To protect the privacy of the individuals, further details will not be released."

"We expect 100% compliance"

Colonel Brus E. Vidal, public affairs director for the Air Force Global Strike Command, would not offer additional details but released a brief statement to CNN following the firings.

"We have deliberate and disciplined inspection protocols and we expect 100% compliance," Vidal told CNN.

"Anything less than 100% compliance is unacceptable. It's that important to us," he said.

The Air Force Times revealed more details regarding the role of Mayer, one of the two leaders removed over safety concerns.

"At Minot, Mayer oversaw 1,900 airmen across six squadrons and a base portfolio worth $4.3 billion. Minot is the Air Force’s only installation that houses two legs of the nuclear triad," the outlet shared.

"Mayer’s group supports daily operations of the base’s B-52H Stratofortress nuclear-capable bombers, Minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and launch control centers, and UH-1N helicopters, according to an official biography that was removed from Minot’s website Monday," it added.

While details concerning the nuclear weapons held at the Minot Air Force Base are scarce, the location has stored B-52 aircraft that can be equipped with W-80 nuclear warheads.

It's also not the first time such a firing has occurred. In 2013, a unit involved with nuclear weapons was fired at a Montana Air Force base.

The serious safety concern has alarmed many over the event but few details are available due to the sensitive nature of the military situation.