Prairie Vigilance: Staying Ready

  • Published
  • By Capt. Katie Spencer
  • Minot AFB Public Affairs

Airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing here, participated in Prairie Vigilance, an exercise designed to test the wing’s ability to conduct strategic-bomber readiness operations, Aug. 9-14.

“B-52s are able to display our readiness as no other leg of the nuclear triad can,” said Maj. Christopher Curtis, Director of Wing Plans and Exercises. “The B-52 and an exercise like Prairie Vigilance gives the president a credible tool to influence and shape foreign policy.”

Minot Air Force Base is home to two legs of the nuclear triad, with the 5th Bomb Wing having strategic bomber aircraft, and the 91st Missile Wing who operate Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The Navy completes the third element of the triad with their submarines.

“Submarine-launched ballistic missiles and ICBM’s cannot be recalled once they are launched,” said Curtis. “The B-52 has the unique ability to takeoff, fly a mission, and make a very visible statement without having to employ weapons.”

While PV is a way to showcase Air Force Global Strike airpower and capabilities, it’s also an exercise in ensuring Airmen are prepared and ready to execute such a vital mission. Maintainers, security forces, and aircrews are tested in their response efforts in support of defeating strategic attacks against the United States and its allies.

 “Just like any sport you have to practice basics in order to win games,” said Maj. Matthew Hall, Director of Operations, 5th Security Forces Squadron. “So the same is true for exercises like PV, where you practice basics to win wars.”

The exercise not only demonstrates the wing’s ability to stand alert in the event of an attack, but it projects lethality across the globe.

“Our adversaries pay attention to what we do here at Minot,” said Hall. “When we do it right, it scares them, and we get it wrong, it empowers them. So we have to get it right every time.”

Allies of the United States also expect us to get it right every time.

“Allies expect us to be prepared to answer the call of war, should that happen,” said Hall. “These exercises showcase that we are ready and able to provide that level of proficiency and security.”

This was the fourth iteration of the exercise for 2021 and is the lead-up to Global Thunder, a command and control exercise designed to train Department of Defense forces and assess joint operational readiness across all of U.S. Strategic Command's mission areas with a specific focus on nuclear readiness.