Capt. John Mayer (Air Force)
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Capt. Patrick McAfee (Air Force)
They’re Air Force missileers, but their next assignments are with the Navy.
Capt. Patrick McAfee, from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, is headed to Submarine Force Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Capt. John Mayer, from 20th Air Force headquarters at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, is headed to Submarine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.
They are the first to be selected for the new Striker Trident program — one of the Air Force’s efforts to improve morale in the nuclear force.
As part of a high-profile investigation into cheating by nuclear missile officers on a monthly proficiency exam,Air Force officials formed a team of experts to interview officers about morale issues plaguing the career field. The program’s report found that “too few opportunities exist for nuclear development and education.” So Striker Trident was developed to provide more development opportunities and facilitate an exchange between the Air Force and the Navy, Global Strike Command spokeswoman Kathryn Blais told Air Force Times.
Jointly developed by the Air Force and Navy, the program will rotate up to four missile and nuclear operations officers in three-year assignments with naval submarine commands.
“We want to give our 13Ns the opportunity to gain some valuable cross-service experience in preparation for future joint assignments,” Capt. Tracy Prey, chief of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Operations Command and Control Programs for Global Strike Command’s operations directorate, said in a release.
For McAfee, it’s a way to go back into a world he grew up with. The son of a retired Navy commander, he grew up living on Navy bases.
“I was drawn to the Striker Trident program for the opportunity to work with the Navy and learn a completely different strategic mission area,” he said. “I saw it as a chance to combine my ICBM experience with my Navy upbringing.”
He said he looks forward to using this program to make a “lasting impact on the nuclear community.”
Mayer said he decided to apply for the program to learn from Navy operators, “with whom, I suspect, we share a lot in common.”
“When I heard about the program, I didn’t hesitate to jump at the opportunity,” he said. “The chance to take part in this unprecedented program and work completely outside the Air Force ICBM world, yet still support the deterrence mission, was a no-brainer.”
The target selection pool for the Navy assignments are officers with approximately seven years of commissioned service, Blais said.
As the program kicks off, the Norfolk rotation will be two years until a three-year rotation is developed. Once the program is fully established, officials will select a minimum of one officer per year to keep the billets full, Blais said.
The next two officers will be selected in November for assignment beginning next spring. Because the assignments are to command staff, and not actually to a submarine crew, there are no gender constraints associated, Blais said.