OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) and U.S. Navy Submarine Forces (SUBFOR) sent six company-grade officers, starting last summer, to participate in a dual-service, nuclear exchange program to enhance interoperability within the nation’s nuclear enterprise.
The program, named Striker Trident, was designed to promote an expanded view of U.S. Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM) strategic deterrence mission by enabling Air Force nuclear missile officers to temporarily serve with ballistic missile submarines and Navy nuclear engineer-qualified submarine officers to serve with ground-based missile units.
“Providing the nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force is a crucial mission with which USSTRATCOM is charged through the Unified Command Plan,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USSTRATCOM commander. “Striker Trident represents a highly innovative and progressive means to enhance inter-service continuity and our deterrence capability as a whole. I am very proud of the initiative shown by these organizations and the officers selected for this unique program.”
The hand-selected officers are currently serving multi-year tours with their new units in order to fully integrate into the day-to-day operations. Upon completion, they are expected to share the experience and knowledge gained in the program with their home units and service components.
U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Michael J. Connor, SUBFOR commander, said the goal of this program is to provide these officers a better understanding of how their teammates from other services support the USSTRATCOM mission.
"The Navy and the Air Force work together as part of a carefully crafted team under the direction of US Strategic Command,” Connor said. This team has the most important mission in the entire Department of Defense -- prevention of nuclear and major power war. The future leaders of this team will be better prepared for their future assignments after working closely with their counterparts from other military branches."
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, AFGSC commander, whose memorandum of understanding with Connor enabled the implementation of Striker Trident, called it a unique opportunity for some of our young nuclear officers to learn a great deal about the other legs of the nuclear triad.
"Ultimately, this experience will benefit USSTRATCOM, the Air Force and the Navy by creating stronger, better-rounded nuclear professionals to secure our future," Wilson added. “I look forward to seeing the evolution and growth of these impressive officers and the Striker Trident program.”
In addition to learning the intricacies of each service’s mission, Striker Trident participants are integrating and operating within organizations whose cultures differ in many ways to the environments to which they are accustomed.
Less than six months into his 24-month assignment, U.S. Navy Lt. Randall Hangartner, one of the officers selected for the initial Striker Trident exchange, is already seeing the benefits of working with a different service component and leg of the nuclear triad.
He said the most significant takeaway so far is that traditions and culture have just as much to do with success as rules and regulations, if not more.
“Everyone brings something to the table and the Air Force truly embraces diversity,” said Hangartner, who is serving with USSTRATCOM’s Task Force 214, an intercontinental ballistic missile unit at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. “Being from submarines, which recently began incorporating women into the field, I would bring that mindset back to the Navy. Seeing the example set by the Air Force shows me that the Navy is headed in the right direction. Diversity is a positive thing and must be encouraged and embraced.”
More information on the Navy officers’ experiences in the Striker Trident Program will be available in part two of the three-part series.