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Left: An unarmed Minuteman III ICBM is successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on August 19, 2015. The 45-year-old missile was launched to test its performance and reliability. (Photo: U.S. Air Force) Below: On March 22, 2016, all the missile crews on alert at all three U.S. ICBM bases consisted solely of women—a first for the Air Force. To commemorate the occasion, the women wore special patches with the likeness of Rosie the Riveter. (Photo: U.S. Air Force) SMELLS LIKE ALERT Missileers are highly trained members of the United States Air Force who must be ready, willing, and able to launch nuclear-warhead-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at a moment’s notice. No pressure. Oscar-01 Missile Alert Facility, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, Montana 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 ICBMs 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. Launching a weapon means I’m not only destroying a military target but also the lives of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people. Launching a weapon means world events have gone so far south that it’s only a matter of time—minutes, probably—before the enemy’s missiles kill me in a similar attack. As a missileer about to go on alert, I’m supporting my daily deterrence mission—but by pledging to defend my country, I’m also effectively signing my name to a suicide mission. And I’ve accepted that. I exhale. One hour earlier I arrived here, at the Oscar-01 Missile Alert Facility (MAF) in central Montana. Traveling 55 mph in a government-issued van, the drive took nearly three hours. The MAF is 139 miles from my main post at Malmstrom Air Force Base, 147 miles from the closest Starbucks, and I don’t even know how far from the nearest Chipotle. In other words, this California girl is in the middle of nowhere. And there’s snow on the ground—in April. National Security Science December 2016 19