SAC (Strategic Air Command) has
returned, and its hoped that some of the
old SAC attitude has as well. The U.S. Air Force is in the process of trying to
revive SAC. This is one of those rare cases where it is recognized that the
Good Old Days were better. The new Global Strike Command (GSC) would control
all air force nuclear weapons and delivery systems (ICBMs and heavy bombers.)
This comes sixteen years of trying to do without SAC, or the new GSC.
SAC, which had control of air force nuclear bombers and missiles since 1946,
was disbanded and the ICBMs, and their crews, were transferred to the new Space
Command. SAC had long been the butt of
many jokes, for being uptight and fanatical about security and discipline.
Everyone tolerated this because, after all, SAC had charge of all those nukes
and ICBMs. When Space Command took over, they eased up on the tight discipline
and strictness about procedure that had been the hallmark of SAC for decades. The old timers complained, but many of
the young troops liked the new, looser, attitudes.
operating the ICBMs were no longer career "missileers", but Space
Command people. Time that used to be spent on studying nuclear weapons security
and missile maintenance issues, was now devoted to subjects of more concern to
Space Command (satellites and communications, for example). Standards fell,
efficiency slipped. Then in 2005, the missile crews lost their Missile Badge,
and had it replaced with a generic Space Command badge. Then, a year ago, there
was much angst when it was discovered that six nuclear cruise missiles had
accidentally been mounted on a B-52 and flown halfway across the country. How
could this happen? The old timers knew. While many of these older officers and
NCOs were pleased when SAC went away early in their careers, they knew that it
was that act, and the subsequent "loosening up", that led to the lax
attitudes that put those six nukes on that B-52.
All this was
part of a major, post-Cold War reorganization of the USAF. It was the beginning
of the end of a decades old tradition of handling nuclear weapons safely and
the air force brass reinstated the Missile Badge, for any missile crew member
who belonged to a missile crew that was certified CMR (passed some strenuous
inspections to be declared Combat Mission Ready). The badge was used for
decades, until 2005, when it was withdrawn and replaced by the generic
"Space Wings" of the USAF Space Command, which took control of the
ICBMs in 1993. SAC has been coming back quietly for quite some time.