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The Missile Badge is a military decoration of the United States Air Force which was first created in the 1960s. The badge recognizes those commissioned officers and enlisted personnel of the US Air Force who have qualified as missile personnel (both Tactical and SAC, now AFGSC, ICBM) that have been trained in the launching of landbased nuclear weapons under the direction of the National Command Authority. Originally known as the Missileman Badge, the Missile Badge later became known as the Missilier Badge or more informally the Pocket Rocket and is still often referred to by this name.
Following its creation in the 1960s, the badge came in only one style with basic, senior and master versions. Although primarily issued to Atlas, Titan I/Titan II, Minuteman I/II/III and Peacekeeper missile crews of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), it was also issued to Tactical Air Command (TAC) Matador and Mace missile crews of the 1960s and Gryphon Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) crews of the 1980s and early 1990s. In the late 1980s, this badge was redesignated as the missile maintenance insignia while a new version bracketed by an oak wreath became the missile operations badge.
By 1992, all USAF tactical missiles were retired or in the process of being retired. The same year, SAC was inactivated and its ICBM force briefly transferred to the newly created Air Combat Command (ACC) before being transferred again to the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). In 2004, the Air Force Space Command Commander, General Lance Lord, announced the introduction of a new space badge. The new combined Space and Missile Operations Badge, informally known as "spings" (SPace wINGS), "schwings", the "Space Boomerang", the "Space Blade", or the "Buzz Lightyear" award (after its resemblance to the animated movie character Buzz Lightyear's insignia), replaced the Missile Badge for operators. This new badge infuriated the vast majority of current and former space and missile operators by eliminating a historically significant badge of honor. In addition, the new badge was no longer limited to pure space and missile operators/maintainers, but was also awarded to Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) 61XX, 62XX and 63XX who performed space/ICBM acquisition duties, even if they were non-operational in nature.
Also in 2004, Interim Change (IC) 2004-1 to AFI 36-2923 expanded the missile badge award criteria to include the 21M and 2W career fields. AFI 36-2923 was rendered obsolete and superseded by AFI 36-2903 dated 2 August 2006. 21M Officers that do not complete MMOC must supervise 2M/2W personnel in maintenance loading and unloading for 12 months to be awarded the basic badge. 2W personnel are awarded the basic badge after working directly with guided missiles or missile systems for 12 months after completion of technical training school.
After deactivation of the Titan missile system, enlisted personnel were no longer authorized to earn the Missile Badge with operations designator. However, all enlisted personnel assigned to nuclear silo maintenance duty are eligible to wear the standard Missile Badge (without the operations designator) if qualified under the military specialties 411XX or the new 2M0XX field. From 1991 to early 2006, the Missile Badge was the standard specialty badge for the above two career fields.
In June 2008, the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Michael Moseley, announced the return of the missile badge with operations designator for intercontinental ballistic missile crews. The missile badge may be worn with the space badge by those who qualify.
In 2011, the Air Force Space Command divested itself of the ICBM force and all USAF strategic nuclear missile operations and maintenance personnel were transferred to the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).
Purpose and degrees
The Missile Badge is awarded as a permanent decoration upon a service member’s graduation from missile operations or maintenance officer training (if awarded to an officer) or from maintenance tech school if awarded to an enlisted service member. The badge is worn on the lower left pocket and is the largest of the U.S. Air Force specialty badges. It is also one of the few United States military badges which is not transferable between services, meaning that a qualified Missile crew member, who transfers to another branch of the United States armed forces cannot display the Missile Badge on another service uniform.
The Missile Badge is issued in three degrees being basic, senior and master. The level of degree is determined by a service member’s years of missile duty in the Air Force and also the level of command responsibility held within the Air Force missile units. Any officer who is or has been combat mission ready (CMR), as a missile crewmember at an operational ICBM unit qualifies to wear the missile badge with operations designator—a wreath encircling the missile. The basic badge is awarded once the member graduates Initial Qualification Training at Vandenberg AFB. Officers with six years of nuclear experience qualify for the senior badge, and they qualify for the master badge after nine years experience. The Senior Missile Badge is denoted by a star above the decoration, with the Master Missile Badge displaying a star surrounded by a small wreath.
The Missile Badge without operations designator is awarded to those qualified to perform maintenance on the weapon system, but are not involved with the actual launch procedures. Most Air Force members, who earned the Missile Badge with operations designator, also earned the Combat Readiness Medal after two years of qualified service serving in an active missile silo. Missile operations (13N) is no longer a subset of the Space Operations career field (13S) and thus Missile Operators no longer are awarded a Space Badge. As of 1 October 2009, officers who have gone through the missile operations training are awarded their badge upon completion of the class.