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Air Force Featured Stories

Improvement program keeps officer engaged in missile mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Capt. Billy Terry, a 341st Operational Support Squadron intercontinental ballistic missile senior combat crew instructor, was given the opportunity to chase a dream he had for most of his life - to change career fields and work as a space systems operator. 

Terry, who has been in the missile career field at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, for three and a half years, said he instead chose to stay in the nuclear enterprise because he noticed a deep leadership shift as one of the first things that was changed due to the Force Improvement Program, FIP. 

"I did want to go to space," Terry said. "But, I've seen a radical change in leadership over the past couple months. I see the changes in missiles as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I want to be a part of it.

"The focus was on how to develop someone. I think it describes the new leadership philosophy well."

One of the major leadership changes that Terry said he noticed and appreciated was the way local leadership now handles mishaps in the missile field.

"In the past, a small mistake such as a clinical error that had no major effect on anything else would have career-altering implications," he said. 

Those effects would include missileers not getting the opportunity to become an instructor or an evaluator.

"Since then, the mistakes have been handled on a case-by-case basis," Terry said. "So if someone makes a mistake, it's an isolated incident. Leadership digs in to what actually caused it.

"That is such an amazing thing to see," Terry added. "It's what you want the military to be like."

Another reason Terry said he decided to stay in the nuclear career field is because Air Force Global Strike Command leaders gave the missile community a voice through the improvement program by expressing their concerns with what they have experienced. 

"They asked questions across the entire spectrum of what we do and gave us the opportunity to provide solutions," Terry said. "They have continued to give us opportunities to build those solutions."

The nuclear career field has been highlighted by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James as the number one mission in the Air Force. Terry said he believes FIP has given him a chance to help shape a huge piece of the Air Force. 

Another change Terry said he has noticed is the way training is conducted.

"While we are still responsible for testing, the focus and the positive changes are in development," Terry said. "So, you see classroom instruction that isn't tailored to prepping someone for a test but it's there to build knowledge and expertise."

Changes during the last three to four months have altered what Terry has decided to do for the rest of his Air Force career. 

"It's really hard to leave a community that's doing all of these things right now," Terry said. "My hope is that all of these changes are lasting changes."