Four Years in a Silo

Posted by Lex, on January 16, 2011

 

Noonan writes in Wired about his time as a missileer:

During a typical four-year tour, missileers spend more than a year separated from their families and work an average of 25 days a month on alert or in training. In the good old days, the oncoming alert force would show up at 0800 for a five-minute pre-deployment briefing. Thanks to Microsoft’s growing influence in the U.S. military, that five-minute weather and maintenance brief has ballooned into an hour-long PowerPoint extravaganza.

“Alerts” are something of a misnomer, another cultural handle better suited the Cold War. Two officers seal themselves behind a 4-ton blast door, in a small capsule similar in size to an 18-wheeler’s freight rig, for a 24-hour period. Remaining alert is the real challenge.

I’ve spent long, quiet hours with lights dimmed — reading, monitoring the status of the missiles, watching DVDs (Lost and Entourage were favorites), and fighting a growing sense of boredom, containment and isolation.

As I recall, the two on-duty missileers are each armed with a government issue sidearm. Since there’s nobody down there but the two man crew, safely protected by a blast hatch, the weapon could only be intended for the other watchstander.

You’ve got to wonder what that did for team-building.

 

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