Mysterious Firing of Military Chiefs for “Loss of Confidence” at Nuclear Base

March 5th, 2023 - by Rachel S. Cohen / Air Force Times & Tara Copp / Associated Press

Six Leaders Fired from Air Force’s
Key Nuclear Base in North Dakota

Rachel S. Cohen / Air Force Times

MINOT AFB, North Dakota (February 27, 2023) — Six leaders — including two commanders and four of their subordinates — were fired from a key Air Force nuclear base in North Dakota without explanation Monday.

Col. Gregory Mayer, who ran the 5th Mission Support Group at Minot Air Force Base; Maj. Jonathan Welch, the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander; and four unnamed subordinates lost their jobs due to a “loss of confidence” in their ability to lead, Air Force Global Strike Command said in a release Monday.

“These personnel actions were necessary to maintain the very high standards we demand of those units entrusted with supporting our nation’s nuclear mission,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara, the two-star in charge of Air Force nuclear units under 8th Air Force, in the release.

The Air Force declined to say what led to their ousters or what disciplinary action they may face.

Mayer held the support group’s top job for eight months after arriving at Minot last June. He has held leadership roles in the civil engineering community for the past several years of his nearly 25-year career.

At Minot, Mayer oversaw 1,900 airmen across six squadrons and a base portfolio worth $4.3 billion. Minot is the Air Force’s only installation that houses two legs of the nuclear triad.

Mayer’s group supports daily operations of the base’s B-52H Stratofortress nuclear-capable bombers, Minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and launch control centers, and UH-1N helicopters, according to an official biography that was removed from Minot’s website Monday.

The Air Force declined to provide more information about whether the other airmen were officers or enlisted, who will replace them, or whether they were all fired over the same incident.

Minot has endured frequent high-level dismissals over the past two decades, including the 91st Missile Wing Operations Support Squadron commander in 2021, the 69th Bomb Squadron and 91st Security Forces Group commanders in 2018, the 741st Missile Squadron commander in 2014, the 91st Missile Wing commander in 2009 and the 5th Bomb Group commander in 2007.

Base misconduct has invited increased scrutiny in that time as well. Firings have come in response to widespread cheating on the monthly proficiency test for missileers, mishandling of nuclear weapons, unprofessional conduct and drug use.

“Our mission is foundational to our nation’s defense, and we remain committed to the success of that no-fail mission,” Gebara said.

Col. Gregory Mayer, fired for “failiers.”

Mysterious Minot Firings Due to
“Failed Nuclear Safety Inspection”
Tara Copp / Associated Press

(March 2, 2023) — The six officers at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., who were fired Monday were relieved of command after their units failed a nuclear surety inspection, a defense official revealed Wednesday.

Col. Gregory Mayer, who ran the 5th Mission Support Group at Minot; Maj. Jonathan Welch, the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander; and four unnamed subordinates lost their jobs due to a “loss of confidence” in their ability to lead, Air Force Global Strike Command said in a short release Monday.

The group was in charge of caring for the infrastructure, fuel and logistics support at Minot, the only Air Force installation that houses two legs of the nuclear triad — ballistic missile silos and strategic bombers.

The defense official, who was not authorized to discuss details of the firings publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the dismissals were based on noncompliance with safety regulations for vehicles and equipment. CNN also reported Wednesday that there is no indication that the failed nuclear surety inspection was related to the handling of a nuclear weapon itself.

While the decision to relieve the officers of command was based on the results of one safety inspection, the units had not been compliant for some time, the defense official told AP.

hat official said the dismissals reflect the tougher line the Air Force has taken on discipline within its nuclear ranks, which have weathered a series of safety concerns and controversies.

In 2007, a B-52 Stratofortress took off from Minot mistakenly loaded with six nuclear-armed AGM-129 cruise missiles and flew across the country to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. In 2014, a nuclear safety inspections cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana embroiled scores of missileers and officers, and in 2016, investigators busted an LSD drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

Test missiles lauched in Monot AFB military exercise.

Minot, Malmstrom and F.E. Warren are home to a total of 450 silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In a statement about the firings, Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Gebara, commander of 8th Air Force, said the responsibilities for the nation’s warheads were a “no fail” mission.

“We have very deliberate and disciplined inspection protocols and we expect 100% compliance. It’s that important to us and anything below that threshold is unacceptable,” said Air Force Col. Brus Vidal, a spokesman for Global Strike Command, which is responsible for silo-based and bomber-launched nuclear weapons.

“The purpose of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Surety Program is to incorporate maximum nuclear weapons surety, consistent with operational requirements, from weapon system development to target or dismantlement,” according to Air Force doctrine. “This program applies to materiel, personnel and procedures that contribute to the safety, security and control of nuclear weapons, thus assuring no nuclear accidents, incidents, loss or unauthorized or accidental use.”

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