Global Strike, an exercise for security forces and airmen responsible for protecting the Air Force's nuclear arsenal, fell victim to budget cuts. (Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland / Air Force)
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The Air Force has canceled its premier nuclear security exercise.
The Global Strike Challenge, a 4-year-old drill for security forces and other airmen responsible for protecting the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal, fell victim to budget cuts that already canceled a Red Flag, the main exercise of Air Combat Command, and the Air Mobility Rodeo, the top training program of Air Mobility Command.
“We regret canceling Global Strike Challenge this year, but we’re committed to resuming in 2014,” said Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, in a statement. “Global Strike sustains our culture of disciplined professionalism by putting our best airmen through the demands of high-visibility competition.”
Last year’s event featured about 480 airmen from seven bases, with the groups competing for the best bomber, missile and security forces crews. The airmen were selected by their commands to perform a series of challenges to test how they would handle emergencies. The goal of the challenge is to showcase the top bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile teams, encourage comaraderie between teams, recognize outstanding teams and improve combat capabilities through the competition, according to the command.
Selections for the challenge were set to begin in early summer, with airmen training all year to make the team. During the challenges, security forces groups are tested on marksmanship, obstacle courses and tactical operations. Bomber crew challenges include simulated missions and weapons loading, with ICBM crews participating in simulated launches and maintenance of communications systems.
The challenge began shortly after Global Strike Command stood up in 2009. Previously, bomber and missile crews had been competing since 1951 and 1967, respectively.
A technology and innovation symposium regularly held with the challenge has also been canceled.
The cancellation of the exercise comes as the Air Force is pressing nuclear surety as its top priority.
“This is too important a mission, we’ve invested too much in all these guys. We need people who are the best of the best,” said Lt. Col. Michael Petrosh, the lead planner for the challenge, after last year’s event in November.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has said the nuclear mission is “foundational to the Air Force.”
“We have 36,000 airmen every day who worry about the nuclear mission,” Welsh said last fall. “It’s a big deal for us. We can’t afford to ever get this wrong.”