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News | July 16, 2018

Readiness and Leadership in the Nuclear Enterprise: a Family Tradition

By U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs U.S. Strategic Command

Readiness and leadership are qualities important to strategic deterrence, especially in the nuclear enterprise. Sometimes these traits are passed down and learned through family.

United States Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel McVay, 22nd Operations Support Squadron commander, grew up understanding the value of hard work, something he learned from his father Patrick McVay, director of U.S. Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM) Joint Exercise, Training and Assessments Directorate.

"For as long as I can remember, my dad always told me, ‘Daniel, anything worth doing, is worth doing right…and oh, by the way, it’s not going to be easy, so be prepared to work hard,’" said the younger McVay. "There has been a lot of advice I’ve been given, but that’s probably the best."

Although Daniel grew up in a family dedicated to military service, it wasn’t until he was a senior in high school that he decided to start following in his father’s footsteps and join the Air Force.

"It took me a little while to realize and admit it, but I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life," said Daniel McVay. "Whether you serve for one day or 20, years it’s admirable, but when I joined, I said, ‘I’m in this for the long haul. I’m going to make this a career and I am going to give my life to the service of the Air Force and to the military,’ and I think I got that from my dad. As far as being a tanker pilot…well, that one has been almost 15 years in the making."

Daniel has experience in many of Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) missions.

"I’ve touched all of their core mission sets; I’ve been lucky enough to be a C-17 pilot and learn the airlift mission and be part of the Contingency Response Wing at Travis Air Force Base and learn the contingency response mission," Daniel McVay said. "So when given the opportunity to become a tanker pilot and have the opportunity to command at McConnell Air Force Base, I said ‘absolutely.’"

Like his father, Daniel McVay graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, attended command and staff college, and has piloted multiple airframes to include the KC-135. The elder McVay is thrilled to see his son follow in his footsteps.

"It’s very gratifying to see him choose the same career path that I did and do so well," said Patrick McVay. "It’s particularly satisfying that both he and his younger brother continued the theme of service. It’s fun to be able to discuss shared experiences with him as he transitions from the airlift mission to the air refueling mission, which is the mission that I performed for most of my active duty career."

Patrick McVay’s advice to his son and the qualities of readiness and leadership were skills Daniel McVay sharpened during his attendance at USSTRATCOM’s Nuclear Commanders Course (NCC) from July 12 – 13, 2018. NCC is a two-day course designed to provide new nuclear enterprise commanders with a foundational understanding of USSTRATCOM’s role in building and maintaining the nuclear war plan, nuclear command and control capabilities, and their unit’s role in the strategic deterrence mission.

The course also provides new commanders of strategic assets with awareness and understanding of USSTRATCOM’s mission, capabilities and requirements, and is designed to increase attendees’ situational awareness of current intelligence, force structure, challenges and synthesized future impacts.

"We need them to leave here with a better understanding of what [U.S. Air Force] Gen. Hyten’s [commander of USSTRATCOM] and the command’s priorities are," said Patrick McVay. "His number one priority above all else is, ‘we will provide strategic deterrence.’ The units that Daniel and the other unit commanders and respective commanding officers lead provide the backbone of the strategic force, which is the backbone of our strategic deterrence capability. For them to come here and get commander’s intent straight from Gen. Hyten is really important."

When Patrick McVay found out his son would be assuming command of the 22nd Operations Support Squadron, he urged him to attend the NCC as soon as possible.

"The course will give him the opportunity to learn more about how his unit contributes to USSTRATCOM’s strategic deterrence mission and it will allow him to be a more effective commander," said Patrick McVay. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited I had the opportunity to have him come home in order to attend this course. When both of your sons are in the Air Force, they don’t get home very often, so it’s an added bonus, but his primary focus is obviously on the course."

Daniel McVay noted the nuclear deterrence mission is the number one mission at McConnell Air Force Base, so attending the NCC is extremely important.

"As someone who is new to the nuclear support mission, it will be extremely valuable to understand how the generation process works," said Daniel McVay. "As tanker crews sitting alert, we are on the receiving end of the action message, but don’t fully understand what it takes to get to that point. This is McConnell’s [Air Force Base] number one mission priority. It is vital that we, as commanders, understand how tankers fit into the strategic picture in order to teach our aircrews and support personnel so they know that the work they do matters."

Daniel McVay added that there are additional benefits to taking the course.

"It also enhances our support of large scale exercises such as Global Thunder," said Daniel McVay. "It’s also extremely valuable to meet other commanders from around the enterprise, such as bomb and ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] squadron commanders, commanding officers and executive officers of the nuclear submarines, plus maintenance and security forces commanders. The relationships formed at our level will only enhance our ability to execute the mission if ever called upon."

Although his father oversees the NCC, Daniel McVay said it did not affect his decision to attend.

"It’s really cool to be a part of what my dad has built over the last 16 years at USSTRATCOM," Daniel McVay said. "It has been his life to support our nation’s strategic deterrence mission and so it’s an honor to help further the relationship between AMC and USSTRATCOM. McConnell [Air Force Base]

squadron commanders have always attended in the past and we understand that Gen. Hyten wants all of the commanders from units that are part of the nuclear enterprise to come to Omaha sometime during their tour, early if possible, and gain added perspective on the nuclear mission."

Patrick McVay pointed out the relationships built and the education commanders receive from the NCC enhances readiness of strategic deterrence forces.

USSTRATCOM has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include

strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, space operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum

operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.

For more information, contact the USSTRATCOM Public Affairs Office at 402-294-4130 or or visit