Tactical Tailor

USAF Establishes Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal



SUBJECT: Establishment of a Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal

After careful consideration, the proposal to create the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal is approved. The medal’s intent and criteria support the recognition of Airmen dedicated to our nation’s strategic objectives in nuclear deterrence. The effective date of this medal is 27 May 2014. Eligibility for this medal will be made retroactive for currently serving active, guard, and reserve Airmen.

Signed, Deborah Lee James, SECAF

The Air Force’s nuclear deterrent community has been plagued with scandal. One of the remedies seems to be this new medal, authorized by the SECAF earlier this week. Check out the photos below for more info.

Hat tip to John Q Public.

69 Responses to “USAF Establishes Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal”

  1. AssaultPlazma says:

    They want to recognized Airman who have stayed loyal and committed to the mission. Albeit a dead one at that whats wrong with a little recognition?

    • SAC Trooper says:

      The fact you think this is a dead mission means you understand nothing about the current geo-political situation. Nor do you understand that the Cold War never really ended even though politicians said it did. A nuclear equipped Russian sub spent 2 weeks last summer submerged off the Gulf Coast of the US – undetected till they engaged engines to depart. They still have theirs and are actively updating their systems.. The Chinese are perfecting their ICBM system while engaging in an actively aggressive play for control of Pacific waters. The Strategic game of nuclear cat and mouse is a live and well.

      • Mike Nomad says:

        Interesting that you referred to the mission as a game of cat and mouse. Clearly, you know nothing about how cats and mice operate. If you did, you would know that movement = staying alive. And that’s what makes any mission relying on a silo a dead one. If you would prefer an example less reliant on cats and mice, there is the Maginot Line for your consideration.

        However, the OP was referencing recognition for doing a job that most folks don’t have the stones for. The Navy’s Deterrent Patrol Insignia is referenced later in this thread, and I think that is the perfect baseline: Everybody on the boat gets one, whether you are in propulsion, or somebody with a key and a finger on a bang switch. Air Force personnel who are responsible for the other two legs of Nuclear Deterrence (bombers and silo-ed missiles) should be thought of, and rewarded, no less.

        • Cary Baker says:

          Mike you couldn’t be more wrong about silo based missions being a dead mission. The problem with subs and bombers is they cannot strike without being in position first. Their missiles ate limited in range. A silo based mission can launch within a minute when the order is given, and it can strike its target any where in the world in less than 30 minutes. This system is well and alive. The silo based missile is what our adversaries are scared of, not the subs, or bombers. We test 3 of these per year and launch them halfway around the world, and we let our adversaries know we are doing it. They even know where the fake weapon is going to strike, with pin point accuracy. This system is a live and needed more today than on the cold War.

          • Seannj222 says:

            It’s nuclear deterrence, whereas it’s not quite active mission, it’s still necessary. Think of it like a Mexican standoff.

          • MT2/SS Andrew J. Freeman, USN says:

            I’m sorry Cary you couldn’t be more obliviously undereducated.

            • Scott says:

              Mr. Freeman, You obviously have never been to Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Mt. The slogan outside of 341 st Missile Wing HQ states this, ” We ARE the ACE in the Hole.” In 1961 President John Fitzgerald Kennedy told Russian President Nikoli Kryzchev that if the Nuclear Missiles were not removed from Cuba in a timely manner that those missiles in Montana would be heading Moscow’s way. Kryzchev immediately backed away from his hard nosed stance on the “Cuban Missile Crisis” and the missiles were shipped back to Russia, being scoped out by a U-2 the whole way. So th idea of Silo based missiles should alweays be used as a deterrent to those who would do US Harm.

          • SSBN WEPS says:

            You obvioulsy don’t know anything about the Trident II missile. Range is not the issue for any boat on alert… there may be… other restrictions, but range is not the problem, and no it’s not the siloes they are scared of, it’s definitely the boats as they have no idea where they are. We can strike just as quickly as you can, but nobody knows from where…

            • Ryan Thompson says:

              I can’t believe you guys are arguing about who has the most important mission, or who our enemies are most afraid of! Whether you are at Nuclear base/boat A or B or C, they are just different methods of completing the same mission – nuclear deterrence. You mess with us, we will fry you one way or another. All are important and all are cogs in the wheel that defend America. Grow up, this is the same argument different services argue as to which service is the most bad ass – they each have their special forces/operations and other fighting units. All are important just in different ways.

        • Joel D.DeMass says:

          In the early 1980s I trained to fly a B52. And throughout the country there were 1000s of little patriotic morons like me. I’m extremely PROUD that if we had anything to do with forcing the U.S.S.R to the table for the S.A.L.T.2 treaty GREAT! And those planes need a crew, ground crews, controllers. that AFB needs security, supplies , etc, etc, but all the services WORK AS ONE TEAM.

  2. AlexC says:

    The fact that they never needed to execute the mission they trained for is a monument to the fact that they were ready to do so.


  3. Cap'n Drew says:

    We desperately need to find some way to remind our missileers that their mission is still relevant. Splitting the nuke and space ops career fields was a start; maybe this will help too.

    • B Dawg says:

      A reminder of the relevance of the mission for Missileers is the award of the Combat Readiness Medal. The NDOSM at least gives something to the Enlisted side who get shunned from recognition for their time serving in Nuclear Deterrence Operations. This medal is a step in the right direction to recognize all members of the Military who serve in the Nuclear Operations and Support career fields.

  4. DGR says:

    Im more excited that we may finally get a 4 star like every other AF MAJCOM…..

    • SSD says:

      AFSOC doesn’t have a 4-star.

      • John says:

        Interesting, I hadn’t thought about that, but it still doesn’t say anything good about who the Air Force gives spots to at the big kids table.

        • Mrs. Sherri Patterson says:

          I must admit, this is all very nice. But, my observation, ethnic, gender and favoritism play too big of a roll in who receives these spontaneous medal gitfs. Son in Army, son-in-law in AF. I’ve heard the conversations from both sides. So, how much does your medal really mean to those quiet, hard working members who deserve it, but are rarely recognized?

        • Luddite4Change says:

          A better solution would actually be to reduce the other MAJCOMs from 4 stars to 3.

          The only 4 stars that we should have are the CJCS, DCJCS, Service Chiefs, and COCOM CDR’s

  5. Will says:

    Is a combat “V” available for a launch?

  6. J. says:

    To be completely honest, the thing that we really need in ICBMs is better manning. More people means less alerts a month per person. Less alerts a month means less burnout over the crew tour for many reasons. More likely to get leave, less time away from the family, and less aversion to having to those days of additional training. As it stands now, that additional training means that an average missileer gets only a few days a month at home.

    That said, I will never refuse extra incentive pay.

    Alert itself is not actually that bad. Imagine being in a small 1960’s airplane, with poor sound proofing. The constant humm, and stale recycled air mixed with a slight scent of sewage. But its OK, because we get Gordon Food Service tater tots.


    A Missileer at Malmstrom AFB

    • SGT Allen says:

      Are you serious. Your out in the field for a day in a nice warm room. Probably wearing Pj’s Luke Misty I’d capsule crews do. Imagine how the cops feel. Out there over 6 months a year actually going out in negative degree weather to chase rabbits. Here you are talking about being burnt out when your out there a day at a time. Get real.

      • J. says:

        I think you forget how horrible the temperatures are in the capsule. They took away our space heaters, and its a consistant 67~ degrees. My pink PJs and snuggie don’t keep me warm anymore, life is hell.

        I do feel really bad when we have to send you guys out chasing the Oscar-2 kitty cat. Seriously, that cat is an asshole. I have offered rewards dead or alive, but aparently 20AF frowns upon expending ammunition.

        Im looking at a cop schedule as I type, your life isn’t as bad as you say. You would be surprised how simliiar our schedules are.

      • TSgt M says:

        Actually, the Nuke mission has gone down hill fast over the past 10 years, even more so over the past three, mostly this is due to the hot wars in Afghan and Iraq. The idea of the nuclear mission is simple, keep them ready to launch and keep them secure, unfortunately the powers that be have made the mission more and more complicated and more and more expensive. SAC was strict and you didn’t want to screw up, however SAC was also simple, which made it successful.

    • TurboDan says:

      I’m prior service NG. Now I’m a truck driver for my family business.
      First, I would like to thank all of you that bust your humps to keep us all safe, in any situation. Now, J. you are the poster child off what most of our men and women of today’s generation, self entitled, whiny little brats. God forbid that you can’t have the comforts of home while your out in the field, no matter how long your out. How did the real men of wars past survive? Yes, they missed life they once knew before but they sucked it up and moved on, without complaining like little girls.(J. cough cough) The way I see it , sometimes less is better. There’s less of a chance of fuck ups. If you can’t handle it op the fuck out and let the next guy who wants to do it do a better job. Well I could go on all night but I have to get off the pooper. Shape up or ship out. Thanks again to all

    • Roderick says:

      Alerts per month? On SSBN’s we had months per alert.

      Don’t get me started about the “slight smell of sewage”. I’d love to be able to can the smell of venting sanitaries on submarine so people can appreciate what bubbleheads do for a living.

  7. FormerDirtDart says:

    This has been in the works for several years.

  8. SSgt says:

    I think this medal and incentive pay is a slap in the face to many. I work directly on the weapons. I do not “qualify” for any of this with exception to the medal, but so does just about everyone assigned to a nuclear base. As a 2w2 the guy keeping the weapons working, by putting in long hours with no recognition for doing our job day in and day out the right way. Knowing that a bunch of people cheated and the repercussion is get a medal and more money is aggravating.

    • SrA D says:

      Absolutely this. I work on gravity weapons, I do the same generations as these guys, my squadron does NOT get busted cheating on tests, and I don’t get extra pay. You can keep the “everybody gets a trophy” trophy, gimme my damn money for my flawless service.

      • SRA S says:

        So the career field “Nuclear Weapons”(2W2) that actually does MX on the weapons doesn’t get the N device but services, fuels, etc does?
        They don’t get the nuclear incentive pay either? “That makes about as much sense as poopy-flavored lollipop.”

  9. John says:

    It’s definitely a start! A little extra pay for people who deploy overnight along with better training metrics would help too.

  10. Mike H says:

    So, let me see if I get this straight… I was a SAC nuclear weapons specialist. I took apart and maintained nuclear bombs. I was directly involved in preparing them for use, including deploying to reconstitution bases to recover our bombers and re-arm them for follow-on strikes. BUT because I was in SAC and not in ACC I would not be eligible for this medal (which does not cover the SAC years).

    However, later in my career I was a vehicle operations superintendent at a B-52 base that was in ACC. I never actually drove an aircrew out to the plane at that point because I was a MSgt. But for THAT, I *AM* eligible for this award. But because it was bombers and not missiles, I would not be eligible for an “N” device like I would have if I was a cook assigned to a missile silo.

    What freakin’ rabbit hole did I fall into???

  11. Luddite4Change says:

    Not to be overly negative, but doesn’t this just duplicate the purpose of the combat readiness medal, though just with a shorter qualifying period (120 days vice 24 months)?

    I know the flying guys/gals have their share of peacetime/wartime recognitions (distinguished flying cross, air medal, aerial achievement medal), but at least they have to do something about and beyond showing up to earn those.

    I’m not saying that the folks who support this mission don’t need some type of recognition, but perhaps something like the Navy’s Deterrent Patrol Insignia would have been more appropriate than a medal?

    • Luddite4Change says:

      Sorry.. Above and beyond.

    • J. says:

      The 120 days is only consecutive in the missile field, which no one has ever done. The real number that matters to us is the 179 24 alerts. A normal month is 8 alerts, and you usually move to different jobs while there. 179 is an average number to end at after a full 4 year crew tour. Therefore, for most people to get this medal it will take around 3-4 years on duty here.

      • Steve says:


        I’m not sure you need 179 alerts (or days in the field) to get the medal, just for the “N” device. My read is 120 consecutive days assigned to a wing with a nuclear mission qualifies a person. If you then change wings and do another 120 days you get the oak leaf. Could be wrong but that’s how it reads to me.

        • Luddite4Change says:

          Don’t only the launch crews pull 24 hour shifts, and the rest of the support (security, trans, Helo ops, etc) either pull longer shifts or go from site to site.

          As with most awards, part of a day generally equals an entire day for the purpose of counting. I could see the support folks reaching the 179 requirement for the N pretty quickly. The launch officers (or other 24 hour shift folks) will take some time to earn the N as they will generally only accrue two credible days towards the 179 days per alert shift.

          Also, looks like its possible to earn the award while you are in the Pentagon or NORAD/STRATCOM HQ, if you happen to be a commo guy who is working on the NC3 systems backbone.

        • Philip says:

          So if I read this right: the PRP admin clerk gets the same recognition as the missileers sitting in the silos?

          • J. says:

            PRP clerks will not get the N. Only people that are out for 179 alerts in the missile field will recieve it (missileers, mnx, security forces, facility managers, and missile chefs).

            Everyone assigned to the base in support of us will get the basic medal, and oak leaf clusters for every 120 days once for each pcs.

            As far as how soon to get the N device, it varies. We (missileers) will take 3-4 years; the facility managers, chefs, and security forces will reach the 179 number a little after a year, while mnx will get theirs in about 2-3 years.

            • Luddite4Change says:

              It does seem ass backwards to me that it would take more time for the missileers to get their award than it will for the other missile field folks.

              I’m sure that this discussion has already occurred at senior USAF levels, but perhaps it would have made sense for “days in the hole” to count differently than days above ground; in much the same way that not all missions/flight hours are counted equally towards the award of the air medal.

  12. EODDoogie says:

    Hey, I’ve got a fun game to try. Let’s have 20-25% of a primarily enlisted careerfield get caught not following nuclear procedures and cheating on tests, anyone want to bet on weather or not the results are the same? This is a slap in the face to all of us who follow the rules and do the job right.

    • 1017bricksquad says:

      So what about the guys that do follow the rules and get stuck stationed at these bases most of their career? Fuck them right?

      • EODDoogie says:

        Yea you know what fuck them, that was definitely my intent. Do you really think pay, a medal, an empty promise to pcs to a limited manning position, and a four star is going to fix a fucking thing? We all had a choice and continue to have a choice every few years, if it is so bad then leave. I guarantee your position won’t be vacant for long.

        • J. says:

          So… The beatings will continue until morale improves? Yea, that has totally worked over the years. Thats why we are where we are now. At least this an attempt to address the problem. Not that it will actually make a difference, but isnt it like a random happy birthday card? Its the thought that counts.

          • EODDoogie says:

            Looks like the everyone gets a trophy isn’t workin’ out so hot. So when the next incident of tomfuckery happens, and it will, what then? More money, blue zipper suits, camaro’s for rotation vehicles, massage girls at the MAFs? I noticed the Group that caused an NSI failure isn’t getting bonus’, and the bulk of them sure as hell get paid less than the cave pilots and work in much worse an environment. What about their morale? At what point are folks going to SAC the fuck up, quit crying and do their fucking job?

            • J. says:

              If you are refering to the security forces group here, you are wrong. They are also potentially getting bonus’s just like we are. The force improvement program covers all aspects of the missile field. None of us are holding our breath for extra money though.

              I also disagree with your assesment on which enviroment is worse. Considering that I spend a good deal of my time in both, I believe that I can fairly judge the two. Yes, it sucks when its -30F and you have to patrol the surface of a launch facility. However you dont live in a capsule that has open sewage, lethal chemicals, and asbestos. Not to mention the hearing loss. Although life is complete hell upstairs for the cops/chefs/fms… they have to share a single XBOX 360. What will they ever do?

              Blue flight suits are stupid, camaro’s will slide off the iced over roads, but dear god do we need those massages. FIP solved, every one happy.

              In reality the thing we actually need is better manning, everything else about our job is not that bad. I agree wholeheartedly with your “SAC the fuck up” comment. The group here that got snatched for cheating were by and large people that didnt want to be here, and so as an act of adolescent opposition they disregarded the rules. Yes the rules are a bit silly in some of their application, but the issue is of making a bunch of current 20 somethings like their job. My generation blows. Kids these days man, no respect.

              • EODDoogie says:

                Without a doubt the facilities are in need of modernization. That seems a place where throwing money at the problem IS a good idea. My point was the Air Force’s penchant for throwing baubles and $$$ at people is not an actual fix which it seems we agree on at some level. That is where my facetious camaro comment comes from, WRX would have been a better choice for the roads down to Judith.

                My overall point is that these folks doing the complaining about tough conditions and time away from family don’t really understand just how good they have it. I sat in that meeting that Colonel Stanley called at the Wing Conference Room and listened to people cry about chest candy, getting to go “have fun in Iraq/Afghanistan” and “deployment sreet cred”, to the point of shaking with anger. From what I gleened there IS a basic failure in the understanding of the mission and it is at the Crew level. Our ability to project power on the other side of the world is directly related to those crews and their job. The reason we are fighting insurgents as opposed to armies is because of that little nuclear triad thingy. And yes your crews will never see that ground operation, it’s not their job, just like my job no matter how much I wish it was isn’t to kick in doors and go FISHing.

                You know who used to put it in great perspective to make folks understand the mission at their level……. Colonel Stanley. I’m not sure about the Wing Commander, haven’t met him or talked to him yet. Hopefully he is doing good things. This is the only Wing I have ever been proud to be stationed at and have ever felt integral to it’s mission. I guess we will see how things have changed when we get back and when the next NSI rolls around.

                • J. says:


                  • RED HORSE VET says:


  13. Papa ONeal says:

    If they were going to do this at all they should have gone all the way back to the beginning…. For myself that would include the years 77-82… Just seems that if you are going to give credit then it should include everyone…

    • M Ott says:

      I agree. However, the date most likely reflects when the last unofficial nuclear weapon was pulled out of some pacific theaters of operation. To open this can of worms would be to confirm their existence during the Cold War where we said there were none.

  14. bloke_from_ohio says:

    If we really want to fix it, someone needs to just dig up and reanimate General Lemay. Zombie Lemay has no time for your crap!

  15. Timmy Soupmanson. says:

    So it’s official. SAC has finally been replaced by a medal. Got it. Nice.

    And makes absolutely no fracking sense. What’s next, Distinguished Chow Hall Service Cross back dated to when contractors started taking over those services back in the mid 90’s? Makes about as much sense.

  16. Sarah C says:

    So, 8 years of being up to my elbows in physics packages isn’t enough to get the N device, but the guy making grilled cheese sandwiches with the plastic still on the cheese gets it? That makes a lot of sense. Once again, 2W2s get the shaft.

  17. The only real fix — bring back SAC

    then missile troops can actually have a career

    We all know, the fighter and pilot community killed SAC, because they were tired of all those non pilots being promoted to General

    heck, its bad enough they took the pocket rockets away from 2M0’s

    Old 316 here.

  18. Mike Marcelain says:

    If I am not mistaken the AF has kept the one man responsible for starting and keeping this going Gen Curtis LaMay would not be qualified as is NONE of us who went through hell and served well just because we were in SAC. I was there guarding the Missiles and Air Bases but I am not qualified? Either make it retroactive to the beginning of SAC or pitch the medal because it will just put a wedge between us Vets and those who are in now

    • ItCouldBeWorse says:

      If a little free chest candy is what “will just put a wedge between us Vets and those who are in now”, then you have some serious self confidence issues.
      *Also don’t forget that just because you draw social security doesn’t make you a Vet, most of “those who are in now” are Vets as well.
      *Be proud of what you did, tell your grandkids the stories, but don’t whine about the changes, we all know when we get a medal/ribbon that is just a ata-boy. My grandfather has 8 ribbons/medals, I have 24 and guess what, anybody that understands the times knows that his 18 straight months in Korea vs. my 3 tours arent compairable. We ALL do what we are called on to do when we are called on to do it.

  19. SA Goose says:

    This is just another slap in the face to all of us retired “Ramp Rats”. We did the time with little and/or no gear. I can remember standing on the Ramo (overseas) guarding B-47’s. in the pouring rain, 20-30 degrees, no parkas, no bunny boots, and a AF blue rain coat. Because it was considered a tropical zone, no cold weather gear was available. Working through fires, exercises, plane crashes and everything else. No breaks, no food, no radios, just us and the HAWK. No consideration. Thanks for caring. As someone previously said, another wedge.

  20. SgtAVF says:

    What every one said about it not being dead, and those who think so are clueless. North Korea and Iran would be fighting over a dead world right now if we and our allies did not still have the “Nuclear Deterrent”

  21. MARTY JONES says:

    The number of days that I was in a Chem suit and protecting the weapons is what we ended the cold war. I may have gotten to the housing unit and my black boots were white from the salt leaving my body. Them that fought the cold war and won should get this medal.

  22. Belly says:

    So… where’s my medal for surviving a DSD?

  23. B-52 NAVIGATOR says:

    Believe it or not, there are a few of us old SAC warriors who still are on active duty. Looks like the award criteria excludes most of of us who actually sat nuclear alert for 25% of our SAC lives. But now ANYONE assigned to a nuclear base qualifies for the medal — wow!!!! The father of nuclear deterrence, General LeMay would be befuddled. Even if he were still on active-duty, he wouldn’t qualify.

  24. john doe says:

    Can’t people just be humble anymore?? Why do they need a cookie for everything they do?? Do the damn mission you were assigned to without worrying about the need for recognition….you asked to join the military, btw this medal means absolutely nothing other than u were stationed at that base nor is it going to be a useful tool for retaining said airman.

  25. old SP says:

    Paid my dues as a SP out in the missile field, Delta-01 (Malmstrom) early ’70s. Came back in’90 as an 99603 NCO Code Controller, feel like I did my part for my country. I was the Codes NCO on duty with two Capt’s in Sept ’91 when President George HW Bush ordered us to take 150 missile off-line. We all got put in for an Achievement Medal….never happened, DCO wasn’t “comfortable” singling out a specific section. Actually busted my ass that day…not sure if these medal’s even mean anything anymore. IMHO

  26. 1hotSACman says:

    I will simply buy the NDO medal when it is available online. It will remind me of my 1950’s days being radiated every hour I worked in a nuke-hot M&I building as a (then designated 33150A) nuclear weapons tech. Hands-on with radioactive materials wearing only latex gloves provided my bone marrow damage that no authorities will acknowledge. I am grateful to still be alive with complete care and medications to evade leukemia in a wonderful chain-of-lakes and forested WI-VA Veterans Home community of 700+ vets.