Nuclear security woes at Minot AFB, North Dakota have resulted in the dismissal of another Air Force unit commander.
Sources at the base tell In From the Cold that Lieutenant Colonel John Worley, commander of the 5th Security Forces Squadron at the base, was fired shortly after Minot's 5th Bomb Wing failed its Nuclear Surety Inspection (NSI) in late May. The wing's failing grade was the result of numerous security discrepancies, largely attributed to Worley's unit.
Inspectors from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) discovered both major and minor security problems during the evaluation, which was conducted by experts representing that organization and the Air Combat Command (ACC) Inspector General team. ACC is the parent command for the 5th Bomb Wing.
Security problems represent the largest section of the DTRA report, which was obtained by this blog and other media outlets. More than one-third of the 14-page document was devoted to security failings, which ranged from improper search and entry control techniques, to lax conduct by security forces personnel.
In one highly publicized incident, a security specialist was observed playing games on a cell phone during a critical exercise event. During another test, a security team deployed incorrectly while defending the base nuclear weapons storage area (WSA), one of the most critical facilities on the base.
All told, the DTRA team discovered five major security deficiencies and 11 minor ones during their evaluation. As a result, the 5th Bomb Wing received an "unacceptable" rating for security during the inspection, and an overall grade of "unsatisfactory" for the unit as a whole.
Due to the demanding criteria for nuclear inspections, a failing grade in any area results in an unsatisfactory rating for the unit as a whole. The Minot bomber unit received passing grades in the other nine categories evaluated during the NSI.
Repeated security failings disturbed the team DTRA team chief--Navy Captain A.J. Camp, Jr.--who traced the problems to a lack of adequate supervision. Camp voiced his concerns in Tab C of the DTRA report, which is reserved for comments by the team leader:
"A review of [security forces] blotters of the past 90 days confirmed that leaders were unengaged with the proper supervision of airmen," he continued. Camp noted that the "average post visit" for senior leadership (above the flight level) was 90 minutes or less per visit, and only "15% of shifts in the weapons storage area" were visited in the last 90 days."
The security debacle during the inspection prompted the dismissal of the wing's highest-ranking security forces officer, Lieutenant Colonel Worley. Another officer at the base, speaking on the condition of anonymity, reports that Worley was fired from his post shortly after the evaluation. Air Force officials also cancelled his planned, one-year assignment to Iraq.
Sources indicate that Worley has been reassigned to Lackland AFB, Texas, although it's unclear what job he will fill at that base. Lackland is home for the technical school that trains Air Force security specialists and there is some speculation that Lieutenant Colonel Worley will be assigned to that organization.
Worley's reported dismissal came just days before he was scheduled to relinquish command of the 5th SFS. The squadron is charged with protecting the assets of the 5th Bomb Wing and Minot AFB, including the installation's weapons storage area. A larger security forces group, part of the 91st Missile Wing, provides security for the ICBM silos and launch complexes located outside the base perimeter.
During his tenure at Minot, Lieutenant Colonel Worley won recognition as a champion long-distance runner. In 2007, Worley won the men's division of the local Trestle Valley Marathon, with a time of 2:45:12. Earlier this spring, Worley successfully defended his title, completing the race in 2:42:49.
This year's marathon was held just three weeks before the nuclear surety inspection began.
Lieutenant Colonel Worley told the Minot Daily News that he normally runs "one or two" marathons a year. Training for those events requires extensive preparation; Runner's World magazine suggests that athletes cover at least 190 miles in training runs during the eight weeks leading up to the race. Worley's training for the most recent Trestle Valley Marathon coincided with final preparations for the Minot NSI.
Lieutenant Colonel Worley did not respond to e-mail requests for comment.
With his dismissal, Worley became the fourth Minot commander to lose his job because of nuclear problems at the base. The 5th Bomb Wing Commander, the maintenance group commander and the munitions maintenance squadron commander were fired last September, after Minot crews mistakenly loaded six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a B-52 bound for Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. Other personnel received non-judicial punishment, or lost their authorization to work with nuclear weapons.
As a result of that incident--the nation's worst nuclear mishap in almost 30 years--the 5th Bomb Wing temporarily lost its nuclear certification, triggering a series of evaluations aimed at restoring that mission capability. The bomber unit regained its nuclear certification earlier this year, after passing an initial nuclear surety inspection.
Despite the failing grades for security, the wing will retain its certification for nuclear weapons handling and operations, according to Air Force spokesmen. Inspectors will return to Minot later this summer, to ensure that security problems have been fixed.
Air Force security experts said that Worley's firing was not unexpected, given the gravity of problems discovered by inspectors. They suggested that other personnel will also face dismissals, noting the "lack of supervision" cited by the inspection team.