...To the men and women of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota. Last week, they successfully passed a Nuclear Surety Inspection, the final hurdle in the unit's road to redemption. According to the Air Combat Command inspector general team, the bomb wing performed in an "exceptional manner" during a "very tough re-inspection."
The repeat evaluation was prompted by a failing grade on security during a previous NSI, held in May. Before that, the 5th Wing was rated "Not Ready" during an Initial Nuclear Surety Inspection" held in December 2007. The series of evaluations was prompted by last summer's inadvertent transfer of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, on a B-52 bomber.
That incident--described as the nation's worst nuclear weapons mishap in 25 years--resulted in the temporary suspension of bomb unit's nuclear mission, and the dismissal of three senior officers, including the 5th Wing Commander.
The B-52 unit later regained its mission certification, after passing the INSI. With completion of the latest inspection, members of the wing can finally put the "nuclear nightmare" behind them. For months, many of the personnel assigned to the 5th BW have been working 12-14 hour shifts, six days a week, in an effort to get their unit back on track.
All of that hard work paid off last week, with successful completion of the NSI. Kudos to the aircrews, load crews, munitions techs, security specialists, commanders (and everyone else at the 5th Wing) for a job well done.