The views and opinions expressed or implied in WBY are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents.

Reorganizing Missile Security at Malmstrom AFB: 341st Security Forces Group and the Missile Security Operating Concept

  • Published
  • By Dr. Troy A. Hallsell


On 5 October 2018, Col Aaron Guill, the 341st Security Forces Group (341st SFG) commander, briefed defenders with the 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron (341st MSFS) during guard mount before they posted to the wing’s missile field (fig. 1). Colonel Guill used this as an opportunity to answer any questions they might have about the year-old Missile Security Operating Concept (MSOC). Originally conceived by the 91st Security Forces Group (91st SFG) at Minot AFB, North Dakota in November 2016, MSOC was an internal reorganization of the 341st SFG’s missile security forces squadrons. By standing up the 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron (841st MSFS) and creating three identical squadrons out of 341st MSFS and the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron (741st MSFS), each unit would deploy to the missile field under one commander’s control. Colonel Guill claimed MSOC created a predictable duty schedule, opportunities for career progression within the security forces career field, and represented “the unity of command and effort of our forces” that translated “to mission effectiveness and increased success throughout the unit”1 Ultimately, MSOC was not a new mission but a change in how the 341st SFG organized, trained, and planned missile security.

Figure 1. Briefing defenders. Col Aaron Guill briefs defenders during guard mount at Malmstrom AFB, Montana. He visited Airmen to answer questions and commemorate the anniversary of the Missile Security Operating Concept.

The lessons learned from the 341st SFG’s MSOC planning and execution provides a template for any group-level unit to plan and execute its internal reorganization. The 91st SFG implemented MSOC at Minot AFB to overhaul its missile security tactics. Once the Twentieth Air Force (20th AF) realized its benefits, in 2017, the commander ordered the rest of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) wings to enact MSOC at their bases. When the 341st SFG began its planning, it developed a 21-day schedule to provide its defenders a work/life balance. It also incorporated the Integrated Planning Cell into MSOC operations to maximize missile field operational efficiency, and created a Troop Leading Procedures (TLP) course to train its noncommissioned officers (NCO) to lead their Airmen. At the squadron level, the 841st MSFS faced some unique challenges. Given MSOC’s bottom-up planning, it had to navigate a murky legal position to operate and build its unit manpower document from scratch. While MSOC had a rocky start, both leaders and Airmen-on-the-ground resolved these initial problems and believed it improved morale and made them more lethal. In short, MSOC worked.

MSOC’s Origins

Missile security before MSOC created a constellation of reinforcing actions that fragmented and diluted leaders’ command and control over their troops in the missile fields. For example, SFGs aligned their squadrons by function: one conducted convoy operations, and another provided missile alert facility (MAF) security. This limited operational flexibility created a situation where supervisors rarely saw their subordinates, which led to manning inefficiencies such as unqualified or untested Airmen in supervisory roles. Additionally, while one squadron adhered to a 28-day schedule (13 field duty days, three training days, three commander’s option days, and 9–10 off days), each element had different duty schedules that led to an “us vs. them” mentality between the squadrons. This schedule also complicated training since no squadron had any days together. This organizational structure fed into a second problem: a dysfunctional Air Force Global Strike Command-wide (AFGSC) security forces culture. Combine this with the youth and inexperience of AFGSC defenders, their lack of a social support system on base, poor supervision by leadership in the field, and a demanding work schedule, and they had a higher rate of occupational safety incidents, alcohol-related incidents, nonjudicial punishments, and a low rate of retention.2

In the summer of 2016, the 91st SFG, under the command of Col Jason H. Beers, developed MSOC to remedy these issues. Instead of one squadron dedicated to convoy or MAF security, it leveraged similar skillsets across its units and created three self-contained squadrons “inherently capable of all Missile Complex security tasks.”3 It believed this reorganization would create a fair and equitable duty schedule across the groups, place command and control with a single squadron commander, and optimize training to build “the most tactically proficient, flexible Defender in the USAF.”4 While the 91st SFG did not explicitly state its culture would change because of this reorganization, task equity among its squadrons, along with increased Airmen supervision through consistent contact with their leadership, could theoretically remedy the issues its commander and AFGSC security forces raised. After a trial period from November 2016 to March 2017, the 91st SFG stated bluntly, “This concept works.”5 As a result of its success Maj Gen Anthony J. Cotton, 20th AF commander, approved the MSOC concept of operation and in March 2017 directed the 341st Missile Wing (341st MW) at Malmstrom AFB, Montana and the 90th Missile Wing (90th MW) at F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming to implement MSOC.6

341st SFG Organization Change Request

Before MSOC, missile security at the 341st SFG was isolated between two different missile security squadrons. 341st MSFS was responsible for MAF security and dispatched armed response teams to alarms throughout the wing’s missile fields. The 741st MSFS provided security escort teams, personnel that traveled to MAFs and launch facilities with the 341st Maintenance Group (341st MXG) to provide on-site security. At the same time, maintainers performed maintenance, along with camper teams that conducted 24-hour site security and the convoy response force that provided security for category one movements. Unfortunately, this approach created command and control problems on the ground. According to Colonel Guill, there was “not a lot of cohesiveness with regards to who was in charge. . . . You could have, for example, fire teams at a site where maintenance was being performed. You could have convoys there. You would definitely have security escort team[s] there, and so you’d have at least two different chains of command for what’s transpiring at that particular site.”7

This situation had the potential to bog down operations, especially if there were two leaders who did not get along. For example, if the 741st MSFS penetrated a site and ran into a problem while in the missile field, they would have to reach across to 341st MSFS and ask permission to use their forces for support. CMSgt Patrick J. Holtzmann, 841st MSFS security forces manager, believed: “It was actually personality driven whether or not support occurred. . . . And I would have to have their operations superintendent reach out to me and say ‘hey, we got this going on can you provide teams to support this until we can get our other relief in here?’”8 As a result of the old missile security construct, security forces operations faced command and control problems that led to inefficient implementation of its resources. MSOC aimed to remedy this problem.

MSOC was an internal reorganization of the 341st SFG’s missile security operations, not a fundamental overhaul of its tactics, techniques, and procedures. Like the 91st SFG, the 341st SFG would create a third squadron, the 841st MSFS, out of existing personnel from the 341st MSFS and the 741st MSFS. Each squadron was self-contained, capable of handling the entirety of the group’s missile security when posted to the missile fields under a single commander. They had an identical structure and provided daily missile maintenance support, camper alert teams, alarm response teams, security response team capability, and mobile fire team duties, along with flight security controllers. The Convoy Response Force and Tactical Response Force moved to the 341st Security Support Squadron (341st SSPTS) in August 2017 but remained separate, highly trained, and specialized teams. Chief Holtzmann lauded the breadth of control the 841st MSFS commander now had over his battlespace. Under MSOC, his commander owned “everything out there. So, my commander can say ‘we’re going to do X, Y, and Z,’” and he did it.9 No longer would his commander have to fight for manpower and resources in the missile fields; he “owned” it all. However, the group’s reorganization alone did not make MSOC successful. It required an overhaul to its duty schedule and wing-level long-term planning.10

The 21-Day Schedule

Before MSOC, defenders in the 341st MSFS posted in and out of the missile field on a rotating 4/4 schedule that created an unpredictable work/life balance. For example, on this schedule, an Airman posted to a MAF on a Monday (day one), provided security for Tuesday and Wednesday (days two and three), and returned to Malmstrom AFB on Thursday (day four). They had the next four days off and posted back out to the missile field the following Tuesday, with the process repeating ad infinitum. Despite this being a four-on-four off schedule, it was actually more like a 5/3 schedule since the fourth day of the Airmen’s downtime was dedicated to training and planning the next rotation. Defenders also had to schedule all mandatory appointments on their days off. As one Airman put it, the schedule could easily provide only one day off.

Additionally, given the rotational nature of this schedule, it was very difficult for defenders to spend any time with their families. SrA Kristofer E. Sawey, a defender with the 841st MSFS complained that since his wife worked a standard Monday through Friday work schedule, it could take months before his days off coincided with hers. This perspective suggests that it was difficult for defenders to maintain a marriage, let alone build a family. Luckily for the 341st SFG, a new 21-day schedule would remedy many of these problems.11

MSOC’s 21-day schedule gave defenders predictability in their work schedules. It repeated itself every 21 days that provided group leadership an extra 25 days per year to use as they saw fit. According to Colonel Guill, “we took five of those days, and we put that into training . . . [and] we gave them the other 20. Now compared to the previous schedule, on average, they’re off 20 more days a year.”12 For example, during June 2018, the 341st MSFS worked 13 days, was off 12 days, and had five training days; it had two four-day rotations (1–4 and 22–25 June) and one five-day rotation (11–15 June). This rotation gave its defenders three weekends off during the month, with only two posted to the missile field. Chief Holtzmann loved the schedule’s predictability. “We have the schedule out until December of this year. So you can look and say ‘If I want to take leave’ . . . you can take the five-day cycle off, plus three, plus three. So, you’re going to get 11 days for the price of five.”13 He also believed the schedule helped defenders build personal relationships: “I think it helps the family bonding a lot better. They can take trips together, do things together, be there for their kids a lot more. . . . So, that’s pretty good.”14

The 21-day schedule also ensured squadrons came together as a whole to build camaraderie. Traditionally, leaders were rarely able to get all their Airmen together for a commander’s call. Under the new schedule, they “can bring the squadron together and have them all in one room and have a conversation, and it hits everybody,” said Chief Holtzmann. He continued, “You can’t do that anywhere else, really, without having people get relieved off post. No matter what base you’re at.”15 Additionally, squadrons held social events where almost everyone was present. For example, the 841st MSFS held a tailgate party, a flag football game, and a kickball tournament on some of their training days. Colonel Guill believed the 21-day schedule created more unit “cohesiveness, much more unity. . . . And I think that has, really, dramatically increased morale.”16

The Integrated Planning Cell

Along with overhauling the 341st SFG’s structure and duty schedule, MSOC also required a fundamental rethink on how the wing planned and scheduled its missions throughout Malmstrom’s 13,800-square-mile missile complex. Before MSOC, the 341st MW’s mission partners would generate, prioritize, and execute their mission requirements independent of one another. “Although, they would meet at designated periods of the day to resolve any inaccurate, conflicting information,” said Capt Travis Miller, “they did not ensure any deconflicted actions were integrated effectively into the missile complex sustainment schedule.”17 This approach resulted in redundant operations and ineffective decision making. For example, the 341st SFG, met weekly with its mission partners to plan the following week’s tasks. Many times, this resulted in multiple visits by different units to a launch facility (LF), such as maintenance and civil engineering, instead of consolidating two missions into one visit. As MSgt Justin P. Silva pointed out, there were only so many times Airmen could penetrate a site without a breakage. Under the old planning construct, not only was the wing expending excess fuel and manpower to provide missile field support, but it was wearing out the very weapon system they were trying to maintain by providing maintenance.18

It also did not help that the 341st SFG had plenty of Airmen to allocate toward any maintenance requirements that arose. Before MSOC, Colonel Guill believed scheduling maintenance support was relatively easy. For example, one-day maintenance might need 65 defenders to support their operations, and the next day they might only request five. “We had a lot of defenders to throw at it . . . because we had our forces massed in two squadrons, it was just a lot easier to not think through it and just schedule maintenance as you would,” he said.19 However, leadership thought this approach was an inefficient way to plan and execute security operations, especially after MSOC dispersed defenders across three squadrons. As a result, the 341st SFG lost its ability to surge its Airmen into the missile field to support maintenance. Leadership quickly realized it needed to develop a more effective way of planning missile field operations that took a long-range approach to secure and maintain the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system.20

The 341st MW stood up the Integrated Planning Cell (IPC)—an initiative independent of MSOC but integral to its success—to encourage cooperation across its mission partners and engage in long-term missile field planning. On 28 November 2016, General Cotton ordered all three missile wings to “implement fully integrated scheduling and reconciliation processes to synchronize functional efforts and more effectively employ our airmen and resources” that would “culminate in the production of weekly and monthly schedules for group leadership to approve and execute.”21 On 28 September 2017, the 341st SFG joined the IPC. Sergeant Silva called it the “belly button for the group” since it was the starting point for wing-level planning.22 For example, the 341st SFG would gather leadership from its five squadrons and discuss each other’s operational needs to make sure everyone was on the same page. Then it would take these requirements to the IPC where representatives from 341st SFG and 341st MXG coordinated missile field maintenance and sustainment to maximize its manpower and resources.

Long-range planning became more crucial after Maj Gen Ferdinand B. Stoss III, the new Twentieth AF commander, instituted the 12-hour duty day on 4 September 2018. This directive required the 341st SFG to collaborate with other mission partners through the IPC to ensure maintenance support.23 His directive ensured all personnel working with the MM III had a minimum of 12 nonduty hours before beginning a duty period to manage risk. In response to this mandate, the 341st SFG rested its defenders overnight in the missile fields to ensure they did not violate the 12-hour duty day. For example, if defenders provided on-site security at LF K-06 near Shawmut, Montana, a six-hour round trip to the southeast from Malmstrom AFB, they only actually had six hours on-site to assist maintenance personnel under the 12-hour duty day. However, if they remained overnight at MAF K-01 the night before, the defenders only had a 30-minute drive to K-06 the next day. “Now, we’ve put at least a good five hours back into their duty day,” said Colonel Guill.24 This approach maximized defenders’ time, but it also brought in the MAF facility managers and missile chefs to ensure they had the necessary resources to house additional Airmen overnight. According to Sergeant Silva, “Every aspect of planning, basically, really got detailed when the 12 hours came.”25 Now the 341st SFG, with the IPC’s help, could “provide the best support to [341st MXG] and still meet our manning [requirements].”26

Despite these benefits, other groups in the wing were hesitant to join the IPC. Sergeant Silva had to get buy-in from the 341st Operations Group (341st OG) and the 341st Civil Engineering Squadron (341st CES). First, the IPC had to learn the other mission partners’ needs. Since each group had a specific mission within the wing—security versus civil engineering—they often talked past one another. However, once the IPC learned what 341st CES did on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis, it demonstrated to them how the IPC could help it more efficiently conduct missile field construction and snow removal operations at the LFs, for example. According to Sergeant Silva, working in the IPC allowed the mission partners to learn “so much more about each other’s jobs and their roles in there. So we were able to help each other where we wouldn’t of before because we just didn’t understand. We were kind of stuck in our lanes.”27 After the 341st OG and the 341st CES sent a part-time representative to the IPC, they understood its value. Now instead of planning a week at a time, the IPC allowed wing mission partners to conduct long-term planning “to the minute.”28

Standing up the 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron

Creating the new 841st MSFS from scratch required the 341st SFG to build it from the ground up. Typically, when the Air Force activates a new unit, it provides two things upfront. First, it grants that unit the legal authority to exist and operate. Then it provides an organization change request, personnel accounting symbol (PAS), and a unit manpower document (UMD) that clearly identifies what personnel the new unit is authorized. After those two items are in place, the leadership team forms up, and the new unit receives its equipment, resources, and manpower before it begins to train and then later operate. According to Maj Christopher M. Thompson, the 841st MSFS commander, “We didn’t do it in that order. We were told to stand up the unit and begin operating, and the legal authority to do so will come later. We began operating under the name of the 841st before the 841st legally existed as a squadron.”29

The 341st SFG’s grassroots approach to standing up its new squadron presented its leadership team with problems. The biggest challenge it faced was trying to operate as a squadron without the clear legal authority to do so. When Major Thompson took command of 841st MSFS in August 2017, he did so as part of 341 MSFS—all of 841st MSFS’s personnel were under the 341st MSFS’s UMD and PAS code. On 31 October 2017, Lt Col Johnathan E. Bennett, the 341st MSFS commander, placed Major Thompson on delegated G-Series orders as a section commander. This delegation bestowed upon him the ability to handle most of a commander’s duties. According to Major Thompson, “With our units on opposite schedules and it being commander’s intent all the way up to the four-star, [this approach] kind of gave us the wiggle room to essentially operate independently where I could do 90 percent of the things a commander would do because I had the delegated authority to do so.”30 However, he and the 341st MSFS commander constantly learned something new about where those legal limits resided. According to Major Thompson, no one but the actual squadron commander with a “C” prefix could sign an enlisted performance report. As a work-around, Major Thompson made sure they were as close to perfect as possible before sending them to the 341st MSFS commander for his signature. Luckily, “They didn’t change any of our EPRs or review them for content to change it to their style. [They] let us operate with that freedom.”31 He credited his positive working relationship with the 341st MSFS commander in making this process as smooth as possible since Lieutenant Colonel Bennett had the legal authority to make changes to his Airmen’s performance evaluations.

Next, when the 341st SFG submitted its organization change request (OCR) to higher headquarters, it did not receive a sufficient increase in manpower. According to Colonel Guill, “when we did an organizational change request, the Air Force would only approve so many additional billets; and they approved two. I needed about 15.”32 The USAF approved a squadron commander position to lead the 841st MSFS and one first sergeant, but it did not approve an additional chief nor an operations officer or “all these other things that are a part of a standard squadron construct.”33 But the group still had to fill them anyway. For example, the 841st MSFS did not have an authorized commander’s support staff when it stood up, but Major Thompson needed people to fill those positions. As a result, he placed defenders who were unable to deploy to the missile fields in those roles. His first head of the commander’s support staff was a pregnant master sergeant with “the technical and personal skills to lead the back-office folks and did very well on that job.”34 It wasn’t until eight months after the squadron stood up that it could hire subject matter experts, like unit program coordinators, for those positions and get its defenders back into the missile fields.35

Building the 841st MSFS’s flights also required some ingenuity. When Chief Holtzman built the squadron’s notional UMD without its own PAS code, he had the 341st Force Support Squadron (341st FSS) give his Airmen a permanent change of assignment to the 341st MSFS. Also, since the 841st MSFS existed under the 341st MSFS’s UMD and PAS code until the Air Force approved its OCR in May 2018, squadron leadership got creative to ensure the accountability of their people. Both squadrons’ personnel existed on one UMD, blended together. This situation created a headache for the 841st MSFS leadership. Major Thompson and Chief Holtzmann worked with the 341st FSS to add a block into the Military Personnel Data System that allowed them to differentiate between the 341st MSFS and 841st MSFS’s personnel when looking at one UMD. With the click of a button, he could see who belonged to him and who belonged to the 341st MSFS. Once the 841st MSFS had its PAS code, Chief Holtzmann “chopped everyone into one organization, that way, no one in my organization fell under the [other squadrons] anymore.”36

The 841st MSFS’s leadership also balanced Airmen’s skills and personal relationships when deciding who went where under the reorganization. First, Chief Holtzmann made sure he managed the group’s certifications appropriately. He had to spread response force leaders, site security team leaders, security controllers, and flight chiefs across three squadrons to ensure each flight had the requisite number of trained people for each MAF.37 Group leadership had a room “with boards on it and a picture on the wall with every person and all their qualifications, shuffling them around” to guarantee they had the right mix.38 He also took people’s personal relationships into account, especially if he believed they would get married. He tried to place them in the same squadron to ensure they were on the same duty schedule as their significant other. Ultimately, leadership was very deliberate about where each defender went. It was “a big manpower challenge for everybody,” said Chief Holtzmann, and required “a lot of maneuvering to lay the foundation” before the squadron posted to the missile fields in October 2017.39

By the time Maj Thompson left Malmstrom AFB for his next assignment, he wanted to make sure that no one coming to the base after him could tell his squadron was a new unit. When Major Thompson learned he would command the 841st MSFS, he made a list that identified what he needed for the squadron to function and “What’s a nicety to get down the road.”40 For example, he believed dispatches, a duty roster with certifications, and a commander’s call were necessary before the 841st MSFS first posted to the missile field. Additionally, acquiring unit patches, morale shirts, and developing a SharePoint file plan would help his squadron function more efficiently if he could get these accomplished by New Year’s 2018. Finally, smaller items like placing a squadron shadow-box in Grizzly Bend, getting leadership parking spots at wing headquarters, developing a social media presence, and ensuring a proper change of command before he received orders for his next assignment would make the 841st MSFS appear as if it has always been at Malmstrom. The squadron was still rounding out the commander’s support staff and holding fast on implementing its force readiness program until higher headquarters published its Designed Operational Capability statement and Mission Essential Task List. However, Major Thompson argued none of these unfulfilled action items “impeded our ability to organize, train, equip, do the mission, and still take care of our folks.”41

MSOC Execution

The 341st SFG faced several challenges when it transitioned to MSOC in October 2017. For example, under the old missile security construct, arming up before posting to the missile fields was a straightforward process. Defenders would sign out a vehicle from the Vehicle Readiness Center, conduct guard mount, draw weapons, and then move out to their duty locations. However, on the 841st MSFS’s first posting under MSOC, it ran into the 341st Security Forces Squadron (341st SFS) at the armory. Since the 341st SFS had priority, the 841st MSFS had to wait until they were finished before its defenders could draw their weapons and post to the missile field. To fix this bottleneck, leadership shuffled the posting schedule, so arming up came last. This approach gave the 341st SFS “more time to get what they need and get out.”42 Also, they staggered weapons draw based on defenders’ travel distance. According to Airman Sawey, “we arm up, not the whole flight at one time” but according to who was going to which missile alert facility: defenders posting to K-01 near Harlowtown, Montana, approximately 129 miles southeast of Malmstrom AFB would draw first, while those departing for A-01 in Raynesford less than 35 miles away would draw last. Additionally, the 341st SFG borrowed vehicles from other squadrons on base because it didn’t have enough to get its Airmen to and from the missile field. This predicament created a logistical problem since the trucks didn’t have camper shells, and defenders had to secure their equipment with a bed net. Even after the group acquired its vehicles, they were not the types defenders needed. According to Airman Sawey, “They got us short beds. So, now we’re sitting there for 20 minutes trying to shove a bag in as far back as we can so we can fit the next one.”43 Eventually, 341st SFG leaders worked out MSOC’s kinks after a rocky roll-out.

Very quickly after the 341st SFG implemented MSOC, Airmen realized they had an opportunity to learn new skills. Before MSOC, defenders lamented their opportunities for career progression in the 341st SFG. However, under the new construct, they had the opportunity to broaden their experience and develop new skill sets.44 Chief Holtzman recognized this benefit, “They’re getting some rotation in, and they’re seeing every aspect of the mission versus being . . . stovepiped.” He continued, “It’s kind of eye-opening for them. A little more appreciation for what the others were doing because you didn’t have that. It was kind of an us versus them before. . . . And so you had a little rivalry going on there. But now we’re all part of it.”45 Given the variety of duties required by the 341st SFG’s reorganization, defenders had a better opportunity to progress in their career field.46

Troop Leading Procedures Class

While one of MSOC’s key goals was to empower NCOs at the lowest level to train their Airmen, upon execution, the 341st SFG had not prepared their leaders to do so. Before MSOC, the security forces career field centralized training responsibilities at the squadron or group levels. Over time, this approach created NCOs who were incapable of training their people. “We have taken the responsibility from our NCOs to train their people. So many of us felt that was wrong…We shouldn’t have done that as a career field,” Colonel Guill lamented.47 As a result, the group decided to push training back down to the flights so NCOs could train their Airmen. Initially, the leadership gave four quarters of annual training to them at once without “thinking through the fact that we have not built these NCOs to train like my generation. . . . So, they floundered significantly.”48 To remedy this problem, the group modified and implemented a course that was benchmarked across the entire command called troop leading procedures (TLP).

The 341st SFG’s TLP course was a condensed, two-day program that taught every NCO in the group how to train their people. Each class comprised 24 NCOs who received the training and three SNCO mentors who guided their students through the material. First, students learned how to implement the eight-part TLP: receive the mission, issue a warning order, make a tentative plan, start the necessary movement, reconnaissance, complete the plan, issue an operations order, and supervise. Next, they broke into small groups with an SNCO mentor and worked through topics such as machine gun employment and small unit tactics. After the first couple of TLP sessions in February and April 2018, students gave the course generally favorable reviews. For example, one student believed the course provided a foundation for NCOs to build upon while another thought it beneficial for senior Airmen too. Most criticisms revolved around classroom logistics. Some requested additional time to work on break out topics while others wanted less SNCO involvement so students could learn from their own mistakes. While most recognized these were the first iterations, and the cadre would work out the kinks over time, overall, they believed it beneficial.49

Following the TLP course, the group pushed its training requirements to the squadrons incrementally. Initially, they received two quarters worth of annual training, and at his SNCOs’ advice, Colonel Guill gave the squadrons another block after nine months, then the final block after another six. He believed this approach helped the group’s transition to MSOC. This arrangement allowed leaders to work out obstacles as they appeared, so they “didn’t try to kind of tackle the whole problem all at once.”50 This method allowed these newly trained front-line supervisors to get their feet underneath them. As a result, Colonel Guill believed the group has not “missed a beat.”51

Figure 2. Guardian Edge. Airmen with the 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron corner an opposing member during a training scenario 24 June 2018 at Fort Harrison, Montana. A new objective, named Guardian Edge, has been established to empower and encourage Airmen to take charge and promote lethality and readiness among their squadron.

MSOC also provided front-line supervisors, on average, 47 days of training per year to implement their newly acquired TLP skills. For example, on 24 June 2018, the 841st MSFS trained as a squadron at Fort Harrison, Montana, outside Helena (fig. 2). Here, the 841st MSFS’s “senior-most senior airmen to staff sergeants [taught] classes to build skills, knowledge, and tailor procedures to their own individual groups.”52 Then, Airmen engaged in a number of scenarios, such as clearing buildings and subduing opposition forces. Additionally, in January 2019 defenders repurposed the T-41 launch facility trainer, typically used by maintainers, to practice recapturing a nuclear asset because it was “a realistic, one-to-one replica of the launch facilities throughout the missile field” and provided defenders “an opportunity to train in an environment similar to a . . . real-world threat.”53 TSgt Daniel Seifert argued, “[This training] helps our nuclear deterrence mission; it gives us and our allies’ confidence that we are good stewards of nuclear weapons in the Air Force and security forces, not just [at] Malmstrom but the entire [nuclear] triad.”54 While one Airman complained about congestion that frequently occurred when an entire squadron did computer-based training at once, he was pleased with how well MSOC facilitated shoot, move, communicate drills and believed it allowed him to get closer to defenders in other flights. As a result, leaders in the 341st SFG believed their Airmen became more lethal.55

New Defender Culture

The 341st SFG’s reorganization directly addressed many of the negative institutional, cultural issues AFGSC identified before the 91st SFG implemented MSOC at Minot AFB. In creating three identical squadrons, commanders now controlled the entire battlespace when posted to the missile field. This streamlined command and control required the group to develop its NCOs to train and lead young Airmen properly. Additionally, the 21-day schedule created a work/life balance that provided predictability in Airmen’s lives and created a level of squadron cohesiveness not present before the group executed MSOC. Now, squadrons could train as a unit and have unit events like cookouts. Overall, the cohesiveness MSOC helped create improved morale across the 341st SFG. While increased unit cohesiveness may have boosted defenders’ spirits, the group did not see the reduction in disciplinary problems it had hoped. However, referrals to Malmstrom’s helping agencies increased. Colonel Guill believed this increase represented a greater trust in leadership: “I may have more ADAPT referrals, for example, than what we had before, but if they are self-identifying instead of getting into an alcohol-related incident or driving under the influence, then I think that’s a win all day long.”56

MSOC also allowed the 841st MSFS to create its own squadron culture from scratch. Since the 841st MSFS was not an active unit before MSOC, its leadership did not have to fight against a preexisting institutional culture. Major Thompson believed that when someone comes into a new unit and tries to implement change they often “run into . . . scar tissue, negative things already existing in that unit.” But for the 841st MSFS, “there was no pre-existing scar tissue. There was nothing to stop people from leaving behind all the negativity or bad experiences of previous bases, places, people they worked with and didn’t like, whatever the case may be, and just bring the good stuff to the 841st.” As a result, “many folks have told me the 841st is the best unit they’ve been in.”57 Airman Sawey echoed his commander’s comments on unit morale. Based on his conversations with defenders in the other missile security squadrons, the “841st has higher morale than the other squadrons just because of how everything is done,” he said. Airman Sawey believed this was because his squadron was open to new ideas. He claimed that “If we think something should be changed, if we prove why, they at least say they will up-channel it to try and get it changed.”58 Leaders’ willingness to listen and respond to junior personnel’s concerns was part of the 841st MSFS’s self-created positive institutional culture.


The lessons learned from the 341st SFG’s MSOC planning and execution provides a template for any group-level unit to plan and execute its own internal reorganization. The 341st SFG planned its own 21-day schedule to provide its defenders a work/life balance, incorporated the IPC into MSOC operations to maximize missile field operational efficiency, and created a TLP course to train its NCOs to lead Airmen. At the squadron level, the 841st MSFS faced some unique challenges. Given MSOC’s bottom-up planning, its commander had to operate without a clear legal authority and build its UMD from scratch. While MSOC had a rocky start, both leaders and Airmen on-the-ground resolved these initial problems and believed it improved morale and made them more lethal. In short, MSOC worked. Reflecting on a successful first year, Colonel Guill stated “It is no longer a concept, it’s a reality.”59

Dr. Troy A. Hallsell

Dr. Hallsell (BA, The University of Memphis; MA, George Mason University; PhD, The University of Memphis) is the 341st Missile Wing historian at Malmstrom AFB, Montana and an assistant editor at The Metropole, the official blog of the Urban History Association.



1 A1C Tristan Truesdell, USAF, “Missile Security Operations Concept Now SFG Reality,” 12 October 2018,

2 History, 341st Missile Wing, 1 January—31 December 2017, 42–44.

3 History, 341st Missile Wing, 44.

4 History, 341st Missile Wing, 44.

5 History, 341st Missile Wing, 44.

6 History, 341st Missile Wing, 44.

7 Col Aaron Guill (commander, 341st Security Forces Group), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 25 January 2019.

8 CMSgt Patrick J. Holtzmann (Security Forces Manager, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 13 February 2019.

9 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

10 Guill, interview by the author; William D. McIntyre to Col Jeffry A. Hollman, email, subject: “RE: 20 AF MSOC Direction, 14 August 2017; 341st Security Forces Group Organization Charts, briefing, 17 August 2017; Martin T. Clifton, Change Notice Manpower Project Summary, 10 May 18; 341st SFG, 341 Missile Wing Organization Change Request (OCR), undated; and History, 341st Missile Wing, 44.

11 Guill, interview by the author; Holtzmann, interview by the author; and SrA Kristofer W. Sawey (841st Missile Security Forces Squadron), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 5 March 2019.

12 Guill, interview by the author.

13 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

14 Holtzmann, interview by the author; Guill, interview by the author; Sawey, interview by the author; and 341st SFG, 341 SFG Duty Schedule 2018, undated.

15 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

16 Guill, interview by the author; and Sawey, interview by the author.

17 Capt Travis Miller, 341st Missile Complex Operations and Planning: Overview, Position Descriptions, & Milestones, staff study, undated, 4–5.

18 MSgt Justin P. Silva (NCOIC, Integrated Planning Cell), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 8 February 2019; and Guill, interview by the author.

19 Guill, interview by the author.

20 Guill, interview by the author.

21 Maj Gen Anthony J. Cotton, 20th Air Force Commander to All 20 AF Wings, memorandum, subject: Integrated Scheduling and Reconciliation Process, 28 November 2016.

22 Silva, interview by the author.

23 Maj Gen Ferdinand B. Stoss III, 20th Air Force Commander to All Personnel, memorandum, subject: Commander’s Intent (Updated) 12-Hour Duty Day Standards, 4 September 2018.

24 Guill, interview by the author.

25 Silva, interview by the author.

26 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

27 Silva, interview by the author.

28 Silva, interview by the author; 341 MW Integrated Planning Cell, memorandum of understanding, subject: Civil Engineering Squadron Expectations for IPC, 22 February 2019; 341st MW Integrated Planning Cell to 341st OG, MXG, MSG, SFG, 40th HELO SQ, memorandum of understanding, subject: Missile Complex Sustainment Schedule Policy Letter, 9 August 2018; Integrated Planning Cell, 2018 CY Schedule, undated; and Integrated Planning Cell, IPC 2019 Long Range Schedule, undated.

29 Maj Christopher M. Thompson (commander, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 29 January 2019; Holtzmann, interview by the author; and Notes, Author conversation with Martin T. Clifton, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 20 March 2019.

30 Thompson, interview by the author; and Order, Announcement of Appointment to/Assumption of Command, G-017-044, 31 October 2019.

31 Thompson, interview by the author.

32 Guill, interview by the author.

33 Guill, interview by the author.

34 Thompson, interview by the author.

35 Thompson, interview by the author; and Holtzmann, interview by the author.

36 Holtzmann, interview by the author; Thompson, interview by the author; and Notes, author conversation with Martin T. Clifton.

37 CMSgt Patrick J. Holtzmann, message to the author, email, subject: RE: HO RFI: MSOC Manning Certs, 27 March 2019; and Maj Christopher M. Thompson, message to the author, email, subject: RE: HO RFI: MSOC Manning Certs, 28 March 2019.

38 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

39 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

40 Thompson, interview by the author.

41 Thompson, interview by the author; and Notes, Maj Christopher M. Thompson, 841 MSFS Stand-up Needs and Wants, undated.

42 Sawey, interview by the author.

43 Sawey, interview by the author; Guill, interview by the author; and Notes, A1C Tristan Truesdell, MSOC Article Notes, undated.

44 SrA James G. Bell (341st Missile Wing Protocol Office), interview by the author, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, 31 January 2019; and Sawey, interview by the author.

45 Holtzmann, interview by the author.

46 Truesdell, MSOC Article Notes.

47 Guill, interview by the author.

48 Guill, interview by the author.

49 Air Force Handbook 31-109, Integrated Defense In Expeditionary Environments, 1 May 2013, 22–38; Briefing, subject: Troop Leading Procedures Front Line Supervisor Pro Dev, undated; Briefing, MSgt Schneckenburger, subject: Troop Leading NCO Pro Dev, undated; Bullet point paper, 341st SFG, subject: Small Groups Topics, undated; Survey, subject: TLP Feb 18 Course Critique, undated; and Survey, subject: TLP April 2018 Course Critique, undated.

50 Guill, interview by the author.

51 Guill, interview by the author.

52 A1C Tristan Truesdell, “Security Forces New Objective Molds Lethality, Readiness,” 2 July 2018,

53 A1C Jacob M. Thompson and SSgt Lauren O’Connor, “Defenders Repurpose Assets to Ensure Nuclear Surety,” 11 February 2019,

54 Thompson and O’Connor, “Defenders Repurpose Assets to Ensure Nuclear Surety.”

55 Bell, interview by the author.

56 Guill, interview by the author; Holtzmann, interview by the author; and Silva, interview by the author.

57 Thompson, interview by the author.

58 Sawey, interview by the author.

59 Truesdell, “Missile Security Operations Concept Now SFG reality.”

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