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Weather keeps missileers on alert for 72 hours

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sahara L. Fales)

(From Left) First Lieutenants Davis White and Miguel Barrios, 741st Missile Squadron missile combat crew commanders, pose for a photo at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., March 30, 2018. Due to a snow storm, White and Barrios were one of several crews required to pull a 72-hour alert shift at a missile alert facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sahara L. Fales)


Before dispatching to the field, the crews held a mission-planning meeting where they assessed the weather and prepped for what they expected to be a two-day shift.

“The hardest part for me was not knowing when we were going to go home,” said 1st Lt. Davis White, 741st Missile Squadron missile combat crew commander. “We just kept getting calls saying they were extending our shift for 12 hours, and then another 12 hours, and another.”

Because the alert exceeded their typical 24-hour shift, procedures allowed each member of the crew to go above ground to take care of hygiene needs and catch some sunlight every day.

“Getting to go upstairs for sun and conversing with others really made a difference. It was nice to get to talk to someone else besides this guy,” said 1st Lt. Miguel Barrios, 741 MS missile combat crew commander, nudging White who sat next to him.

 “It can get pretty stuffy in the capsule because there isn’t a whole lot of room,” added White. “It helps when you’re friends with the guy you’re downstairs with.”

Although the tour made things like child and pet care a challenge for some crews, White said their wingmen on Minot AFB worked hard to ensure they were taken care of.

“We felt really supported by the people back on base,” added Barrios. “We kept getting calls from people who knew we were going to stay on alert asking if they could help us with anything back home.”

Barrios and White said the mindset of other crews they communicated with also helped them get through their shift.

“When we talked on the phone with others at different squadrons they maintained a positive attitude which really kept us going,” said Barrios. “They kept cheering ‘lets go for 96 hours!’”

To commemorate any lengthy stay, crew members receive a small metal pin with the consecutive alert shift hours on it. White and Barrios, along with the others who worked those three long days, will now get to proudly wear their uniforms with a “72” on their shoulder.

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