Ms. McNiel served in the 67th Strategic Missile Squadron in 1991-92 as the 44th missile wing began to stand down in compliance with the START treaty.
Wendy McNiel grew up in Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming where she joined the ROTC program. After completing college, she joined the Air Force. She was assigned to the 44th Strategic Missile Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base from February 1991 to December 1992. She worked in the 67th Strategic Missile Squadron as a missileer. She eventually became an instructor training missileers. In late 1992 she was reassigned to F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Could you describe your first time entering one of these launch control centers?
I was able to tour a launch control center while I was in ROTC, but the first time I went in after I had gone through my training and I actually showed up for my first day on the job I was excited and nervous at the same time. I was excited because I was doing something that I knew I wanted to do. Having a career in missiles was my first choice. There was some anxiety because of the nature of the work. You would see the light on the panel knowing those were missiles and there was a great responsibility but it was a responsibility I very much wanted to have.
Describe the training missile officers received
The training constituted of a lot of classroom work. Learning about the general information about the weapons themselves and also classroom work on the war fighting side of the weapons system. So we had the classroom work with the worst side of the weapons and also with just the day-to-day maintenance of keeping weapons running, you know, because they're always on and just the general maintenance with that. We also had simulation time; a lot of time in the simulator in which we entered the missile procedures trainer and there we had both war time and peace time simulation of different events that could happen out in the field. So, by the time I was done, I was very well trained to go out in the field.
Anything else you'd like to share about your experience?
Let me think a minute. I guess I just want to make a general comment that people who are on alert at the launch missile control centers it's very much an invisible thankless job. There are people who don't get seen, you know, nobody sees what they do, nobody cares about it. I see them as almost invisible warriors, the security police that are there, the facility managers, the chefs that are there, they're just out there in the middle of nowhere 24 hours a day and I think it's good that people know that they're out there, you know, doing a job that not everybody can do and not everybody wants to do.