8th Air Force commander announces he has relieved six leaders at nuclear base in Minot, North Dakota

The recent transcontinental passage of the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon has sparked renewed public attention toward the nation’s nuclear bases operated in relative secrecy by the U.S. military.

Coincidentally, just weeks after the Chinese spy balloon saga, the U.S. Air Force has relieved from duty six commanders at the nuclear weapons-equipped Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, the Daily Wire reported.

Given the sparse information released by the 8th Air Force Commander, who is ultimately in charge of the nuclear base, it is entirely unclear why the six leaders, including two group commanders and four subordinates under other commands, were relieved of their leadership positions.

Leaders fired

In a brief statement released on Monday, 8th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara announced that he had relieved the two commanders at Minot Air Force Base “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to complete their assigned duties.”

“These personnel actions were necessary to maintain the very high standards we demand of those units entrusted with supporting our Nation’s nuclear mission,” the general said.

Those two commanders had been in charge of the 5th Mission Support Group and the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and in addition to them, Gebara also revealed that four other subordinate leaders under other commands at the base, though he declined to provide any further details in order to “protect the privacy of the individuals.”

“Eighth Force continues to safeguard global combat power and conduct around-the-clock strategic deterrence operations in a safe, secure, and effective manner,” the general added. “Our mission is foundational to our Nation’s defense, and we remain committed to the success of that no-fail mission.”

An important base with a vital duty

To be sure, a commander having confidence in his leaders and their subordinates at Minot Air Force Base is a legitimate concern, given that base’s unique status as the only “dual-wing nuclear capable base in the Air Force” and plays host to both the 5th Bomb Wing, which operates 26 B-52H nuclear-equipped bombers, and the 91st Missile Wing, which operates 150 nuclear-equipped Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile siloes.

The base was first opened in 1957 and initially served as host to a Fighter Interceptor Squadron but transitioned between 1968 and 1988 away from fighter jets to solely host bomber planes.

As for the 91st Wing, first established in 1948, it initially operated reconnaissance and bomber planes but transitioned over to nuclear missiles in 1968 and has remained on “continuous alert” ever since.

With respect to the 5th Mission Support Group, of which the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron is a part, it is tasked with “providing flawless mission support” for the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing, as well as “delivering essential installation mission support and community service, securing our resources, providing proper care of base facilities and infrastructure, while developing combat-ready airmen.”

It is comprised of around 1,600 personnel, both military and civilian, who, as the name of the unit suggests, provide various forms of support for the estimated 12-14,000 other individuals living on the base, including military members and their dependents, civilian workers, federal contractors, and retirees.

We may never know why

According to Task and Purpose, it wasn’t hard to determine the identity of the two relieved commanders, as the 5th Mission Support Group was previously commanded by Col. Gregory Mayer while the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron was formerly led by Maj. Jonathan Welch.

Why, exactly, they were relieved, as well as the reasons for sacking the other four unidentified subordinate leaders, is still unclear and will likely remain a mystery … at least for now.

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