The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has trained 247 women as Nuclear and Missile Operations Officers, whose job is to stand at the ready to launch the country’s nuclear arsenal.
A 90-member “pulling crew” of officers, known as Missileers, stay on alert at all times in separate sites across the country, working in teams of two to monitor the 450 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles in case they get the order to launch.
While four-in-five Missileers are men, 247 are women, enough for there to have been at least one all-female shift.
“We defend the United States with combat-ready nuclear forces, and, on order, we'll conduct global strike,” Colonel Cathy Barrington, operations group Commander of the 91st Missile Wing at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base, told Marie Claire in an article on female Missileers.
“As an American taxpayer, who do you want out there taking care of our nuclear weapons?” Barrington asked.
“You want highly capable people who have the highest level of integrity,” she added.
Missileers must complete months of intensive training to memorize nuclear launch protocol, and are then sent to work in remote Midwestern towns in the northern Great Plains region.
“When I got assigned to missiles, my commander was shocked. I was shocked. I cried a little bit. I thought I studied math and linguistics - what am I going to do with missiles?” Captain Marian Dinkha told the magazine.
“Once you get into higher positions, you can start doing the squirrelly stuff - that’s what they call it - get assigned to Hawaii maybe, or Europe. I'll still have the opportunity to travel, I'll just be older. Hopefully, I'll still be sparkly enough to enjoy it,” she added.
Captain Amber Moore told Marie Claire, “Our mission every day is to provide deterrence. Every day we try to make our enemies ask themselves the question, “does the benefit of attacking the U.S. outweigh the cost?” Because they know that we’re always prepared to fire back.”