One of those “sponsored” links on Facebook caught my attention this morning. Clicking on it took me to a recent newspaper article about a Winifred, Montana couple whose ranch is close to the route we traveled last fall.
The title of the article was “The nuclear missile next door.” In the middle of this elderly couple’s 12,000-acre ranch, one acre belongs to the federal government and houses a Minuteman III silo.
On September 17th we drove from Shelby to Great Falls. After taking a day off the road to wait out a “red-flag warning,” on September 19th we continued on to Billings. We were unaware that we’d rolled right through the heart of America’s land-based nuclear arsenal.
I do remember driving past Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to the 341st Missile Wing of the USAF Global Strike Command, as we left Great Falls on US Route 87. The 341st comprises three ICBM squadrons, each of which is composed of five flights. Each flight controls ten missile silos.
Do the math — that’s 150 nuclear ICBMs, constituting fully one-third of this nation’s Minuteman III missiles (said to be replaced soon by Sentinels). If you believe the Pentagon, that is.
Our route over those two days brought the bus’n’us within a mile of Wing command and ten Missile Alert Facilities (each of which incorporates a Launch Control Center), along with 30 of the 150 Launch Facilities (active missile silos). Most of the sites are easily discoverable on Google Maps satellite view, right there in plain sight with no particular pains taken to hide them.
Not that we noticed anything. LCCs and LFs are underground, of course. MAFs are ordinary-looking structures often surrounded by berms and, from a distance, purposely indistinct. Today I flipped back through dozens of images we’d snapped along the way and nothing stood out.
America’s nuclear triad — of which land-based ICBMs are one part — is in the news now because the current progressive regime has so badly buggered America’s global projection of strength, emboldening especially Russia but also China. For Deb and me, however, both of us children of the Cold War, nukes never really left our consciousness.
All 150 silos in South Dakota were decommissioned (and most were destroyed) in the 1990s, along with equal numbers in Missouri and in eastern North Dakota. That leaves three Missile Wings — the one we traversed in Montana, another in central North Dakota and a third spanning the Wyoming/Nebraska/Colorado tri-state area.
It’s worth wondering, I think, if that’ll be enough.
Our 300-mile run across the Montana prairie last September undoubtedly was a memorable drive. Now I suspect I’ll also remember it for what we didn’t see — because we just weren’t looking.
Apparently my anecdote about Maggie struck a chord. More than one reader confided that they were moved to tears by the story of an old dog who loved to ride on her family’s ATVs.
I saw the same reaction among the bidders gathered ’round yesterday afternoon. These were regular people, working Americans, folks who know the love of a dog. Looking around I watched so many of them connect visibly with what was happening.
Good people. Good dog.
One year ago today: We took a housekeeping day, kicking back and doing chores at our campground on the north side of Springfield, Missouri.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.