Smells Like Alert
- Managing Editor
- Clay Dillingham
I take a deep breath and pick up the pen, not anticipating the swell of emotion in my stomach. The magnitude of my actions—or inactions—suddenly becomes very real, and I sign my name to the paper. I am officially on my first 24-hour alert as a Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander—a missileer. I am 23 years old.
My signature ensures that I will care for and, if ordered by the president, launch any or all of the 10 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles now in my custody. I know that from this moment forward, I have to follow ICBM launch protocol to a T. The public, my family, my peers, base leadership, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and ultimately the President of the United States depend on me to launch these weapons, should I ever be ordered to do so.