Nuke missile duty: 'It weighs on your mind'

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Associated Press

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 1:04 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 9 at 2:03 AM

BERTHOLD, N.D. (AP) — The men and women who operate the nation's Minuteman 3 nuclear force are known as missileers. From a command post 60 feet below ground, they await the order they hope never arrives: to launch the world's most powerful weapon.

These airmen do their duty not in the air but in a hole in the ground.

On both counts — the possibility of firing weapons that could kill millions, and the subterranean confinement — a missileer lives with pressures few others know.

It's not active combat, although the Air Force calls them combat crew members.

Some may find it surprising that the U.S. still operates nuclear missiles. And therein lies part of the problem for missileers, who feel underappreciated in a military that long ago shifted focus to fighting small wars.

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