Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Dismissal at Minot

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.


Jimmy said...

While, indeed, officers need to lead from the front in all aspects, including physical fitness, the military has been too long in the grips of the "professional" runners and weightlifters.

If a commander is evaluating two mediocre officers, one a PT stud and the other w/ a mediocre PT score, guess who will come out ahead?

Again, this is an accountability problem, where commanders need to hold their people responsible for results, not on a tangentially related area like PT.

jeebus said...

I don't see what connection you are trying to make with his running. Regardless of character, personality, and personal achievement, none would matter in view of unit failures. The leader is responsible for what the people do and fail to do. You obviously are not a marathoner. Three weeks before a marathon you are barely running. So should Patreus get fired we can say it is because he was a runner? I usually think your writings are spot on but this one stinks of tabloid journalism.

SwampWoman said...

Jeebus, I think you missed the point. A military officer is on duty, so to speak, 24/7. It doesn't matter whether he was a runner, a goat roper, or an amateur singer. The results were the same. He was not physically present doing his job preparing for that inspection perhaps because of a demanding hobby.

The inspections were extremely serious, but he didn't act as though they were.

James Skylar Gerrond said...

Spook, is there a way to send you an email...?

Jim Howard said...

The fact is that in the USAF spending more time on the track and less with the troops is a better strategy for promotion than the reverse.

Corky Boyd said...


Thanks again for your excellent coverage of this sad affair. Too many folks simply find reason to blame Gates for the house cleaning. I always ask them to read your columns when they do.

As you point out the remnants of SAC are no longer the prestige arm of the Air Force. The best and brightest aren't being assigned there.

Backwater commands get backwater commanders. Time to put some leaders in charge.

Unknown said...


My e-mail is:

Sam Damon said...

One thing I have to wonder a bit about is how the USAF judges physical fitness.

I have a hard time believing that a major component of the USAF test is one's waist size! IIMU that in order to max the test, men require a 30-inch waist. Of course, distance running is an excellent way to achieve that. And I'm sure some high-ranking Pentagon USAF medical person has thrown up a blizzard of paperwork justifying this.

But it still boggles my imagination. If this guy was running marathons so he could max the USAF physical fitness test, it shows a real screwed-up sense of priorities within that service, IMO.

Jim Howard said...

Good point Sam. Under the present USAF promotion system neither Curtis Lemay nor Lesile Grove would have been promoted to Major.