Could a USAF member refuse to work as a missileer?

I am not American so please bear with me. I believe the land-based part of the US nuclear triad is under control of the USAF. I’ve tried google but I’m still not sure how officers are selected for the role of missileer.

If they are selected and do not volunteer could someone refuse to work in that role because while they have no objections to military duty in general they have a moral objection to the scale of destruction caused by nuclear weapons? Or is it a case of ‘you’ll go where you’re sent’.

This question also applies to US Navy personellel assigned to duty on a ballistic-missile submarine.

I apologise if I’m not being clear. Thank you :slight_smile:

The US military is a volunteer force. The Air Force puts in your contract what job you are going to be trained and assigned to before you become a member. It is always possible that your assignment could be changed due to the needs of the military but the current situation is that the Air Force has had no problems filling personnel slots.

I think that in most militaries, refusing a posting other than some dangerous/suicidal mission, would at the very least be a career stopper. There are usually a good selection of less popular postings in unattractive parts of the world as an alternative.

USAF Missilers; aka the guys in the Silos are all officer IIRC. Do officers have contracts?

It’s conceivable that one could be forced to do that work but practically speaking, these are the sorts of assignments where you don’t want anyone who’s reticent.

I have no experience in the military, but the example cited by the OP seems extreme. That is, being assigned to Air Force nuclear arms requires an in-depth personality screening-and a lot of “training” while assigned. If you aren’t interested in the posting, giving the wrong answers to a few questions-or just honest answers if one is opposed-seems highly likely to be a quick exit strategy. You may not get the best new posting in the Air Force, but I am sure you won’t be given any keys to the missiles.

Well … as mentioned above … the US military is strictly volunteer … so it’s assumed when a person joins that they are ready, willing and able to kill as many enemy and as quickly as possible … anyone unwilling would be the subject of a Monty Python sketch {YouTube 0’22"-1’33"} …

As a US military member, they would be under The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). If they refused to do their assigned duty, there is a long list of how they could be punished including Court Martial. If an officer, they could try to resign their commission first, but it’s unlikely that would work.

Customarily someone who believes in seving in defense of the country but has moral qualms with *personally *inflicting harm would join in the noncombatant medical or chaplain branches but there they could still be assigned to a post that *serves *the nuclear force units - e.g. Medical Corpsman aboard a SSBN.

Being that it’s a volunteer military, someone with a hardline antinuke position would be better advised to not join a nuclear-armed force to begin with. I’d recommend the Coast Guard.

Also, as mentioned, it’s something that they do not just throw at whoever’s name they draw out of a hat, and give one of the two keys to someone who was the base meteorologist this morning; it requires special screening to avoid giving it to someone unsuited.

Sure, but is it a case of being called into your superior’s office and being told your name is being put forward for the role or is it entirely voluntary and self-selecting?

In the former I could imagine a conversation about why you don’t want to do it not going well depending on the attitudes of your superior. And what rbroome suggests has its own problems.

Thanks for the answers everyone!

As a rule, Atomic Alex, you do not get to say say “I’d rather not, thank you, sir” to a lawful posting assignment. OTOH if you’re not cut for it they’ll wash you out at the screening phase.

That said, USAF career field 13N, which is what the nuclear missilleers are classed as, is something you enter at the *start *of your service as an officer and then as you progress up your possible assignments are broadened according to your increasing qualifications. Until recently in fact they were even discussing that it was bottom-heavy with early-career people and short in middle-management billets so that the situation is rather the opposite of your hypothetical: that people who entered as missileers have to move on to other jobs according to the needs of the service.

So apparently, no, this is not something that you would expect to have your CO call you in from your normal billet as purchasing desk copilot and say “Lieutenant Schmuckowitz, Group command is putting your name in for Missileer school” unless they were having a major short-handed situation. It’s more normally something that is selected at the time of upcoming commissioning out of the Academy or ROTC where you are asked to give a list of what specialties do you want to go into.

In a book about SAC I read a few years ago, it was stated that Missileers were heavily recruited from Flight School drop outs. Dunno if that’s the case still.
Incidentally, in the post Cold War, pre 2014 days; its was noted that Missile Forces world over were not considered prime jobs anymore and did not get the best recruits.

It’s probably the other way around.

If I were a peacenik, but still wanted to join the Air Force, I would rather be stationed at a MMIII strategic missile base than working on bombers or fighter aircraft. With the latter, there is a strong likelihood the planes will be used - either directly or indirectly - to kill people. Not so with the former.

Given the nature of the assignment, I would expect that you could put forwards that you have doubts about your ability to carry out the assignment in a hot situation. Might not even be total career suicide either, but I think it would be a bit of an albatross.

You used to have to go in for a psychiatric exam for certain nuclear control jobs including Misseleer. If you didn’t want to do it, you only had to say “I don’t think I could launch a nuclear weapon.” The correct answer was, “I would deeply regret taking that action, but I have to assume our national civilian leadership and military leadership had decided that such an extreme step was necessary to preserve the nation.”

I think it’s logical that some kind of psychological screening still takes place. But have no personal knowledge of it anymore.

(It wasn’t a long exam, “Can you in all good conscience feel you could launch a nuke?” “Sure” “Hand over the paper, and I’ll sign it”)

Bolding mine. The US Army got out of the nuke business after the original START treaty. Having all those small tactical nukes around made the two sides uneasy. Better to stick with bombers, subs, and in-ground tubes. Better centralized control - Dr. Strangeglove notwithstanding.

Google “usaf prp” for more info about the screening process for everyone in the USAF who has any involvement with nuclear weapons.

Retired missileer here. Becoming a missileer is a rigorous process. Before you even begin your security paperwork, you are specifically asked if you’d have moral qualms turning the key. You have to sign a piece of paper to the affect that yes, you’d do your duty. If you don’t, they typically assign you to another career field to “fill the needs of the Air force”. That was usually something less desirable. They weren’t going to put you into flight training or engineering, (frankly missileer isn’t looked on as a desirable career field in the AF). Typically its something like missile maintenance, public affairs or personnel. Then you have to get a background investigation for your clearance. That’s another vetting step. If you pass all that, you go to I think it was 3-6 months of training. When I went through, the classes were based on where you were to be stationed because the human interfaces are all slightly different. During my training, we had to have a down day to discuss character because people in the Minot AFB (very cold, very remote northern tier base) class were deliberately failing tests to wash out and get reassigned to some other career.

Then, once you graduate and start pulling alert, you are on the personnel reliability program. You aren’t even allowed to take Nyquil without a Drs. order–even if you aren’t going to pull an alert that day or the next. No self medicating. You are also required to self identify if you are under personal stress, sick, or even just don’t feel like pulling an alert. If that happens, there are back-ups to take your place. This is called burning your backup and if you get the reputation of being a hanger queen, i.e. always going down on PRP, you are kind of shunned. and the leadership will ensure you don’t progress within the squadron. I’ve been out of the career for almost 20 years and I can still name the Wing’s hangar queen and I’m lousy with names.

So you can see there are many opportunities to not serve as a missileer if you have qualms about it. They don’t want you if they can’t rely on you to do the mission. The mission has its good points and its bad just like everything else. I came into missiles late in my career so I had some perspective, but young Lts see it as drudgery and boredom and pressure and inglorious. No job is perfect, but you learned discipline, no one bothered you, you could read or do hobbies, and you got a lot of time off since you were in the hole for 24 hours a shift. The people were pretty great as well–well most of them. It was a brotherhood of suck.