By Staff Sgt. Rachel Hammes, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 29, 2018
Members of U.S. Strategic Command and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron stand on the flight line at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, in front of a U.S. Navy E-6B after having pulled a successful alert May 21, 2018. The entire crew worked together to ensure the U.S. was defended in the instance of a strategic attack against the nation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Hammes)
Brig. Gen. Christopher Coffelt, right, the deputy director of Nuclear Operations at U.S. Strategic Command, congratulations Capt. Paul Bouvier, left, an Airborne Launch Control System intelligence officer and strike planner at the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, left, on reaching his 400th alert with the squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, May 21, 2018. Pulling alert involves standing by to react to incoming strategic attacks on the United States, which in Bouvier’s case, takes place on the U.S. Navy E-6B. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Hammes)
Capt. Paul Bouvier, left, an Airborne Launch Control System intelligence officer and strike planner at the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, holds a certificate presented to him by Brig. Gen. Christopher Coffelt, right, the deputy director of Nuclear Operations at U.S. Strategic Command, in front of the U.S. Navy E-6B at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, May 21, 2018. The certificate commemorated Bouvier’s 400th alert, a significant accomplishment for an officer in his field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Hammes)
When Capt. Paul Bouvier arrived at the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, in October 2016, he was just in time to bear witness to a transition in the mindset of the missiles field throughout the Air Force.
As an Airborne Launch Control System intelligence officer and strike planner at the 625th STOS, one of Bouvier’s primary duties is pulling alerts. On May 21, 2018, Bouvier hit a landmark event in his career by pulling his 400th alert – becoming the only person currently in the 625th STOS with that much alert experience.
Pulling alert involves standing by to react to incoming strategic attacks on the United States, with each 24-hour period counting as one alert. Bouvier’s part in that takes place on the U.S. Navy E-6B, an airborne command post. Before arriving at Offutt AFB, he pulled ground alerts across North Dakota and Montana.
However, in the past pulling a significant number of alerts was not considered a sign of experience, but instead a negative in an officer’s record, Bouvier said. Officers who completed hundreds of alerts were not considered to be the most proficient, as it was assumed that the most highly skilled nuclear officers were moved to staff jobs - instructing, evaluating or working with leadership.
“You were judged back then on how few alerts you had – a commander who had only pulled around 150 alerts was seen as the best,” Bouvier said.
Pulling alert is a key method of ensuring the safety of the United States in the event of an incoming attack.
“We’re in charge of the ALCS in particular, and that keeps the intercontinental ballistic missiles survivable,” he said. “Without us, it’s a smaller number of targets, but with the ALCS on alert, it’s significantly more – we complicate adversary decision making.”
Air Force leadership has worked diligently in recent years to reassess priorities within the missile career field, Bouvier said. One of the many changes made to raise career morale and professionalism was a renewed focus on job proficiency, to include pulling alerts.
As such, Bouvier was just in time to experience both the old mindset regarding alerts and the new – and he has fully embraced the new.
“I’m the first generation of people pulling a lot of alerts,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people who already have 400 alerts, but there will be a lot of people behind me doing that.”
Brig. Gen. Christopher Coffelt, the deputy director of Nuclear Operations at the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, said Bouvier’s accomplishment was a sign of his commitment to the Air Force and the mission.
“We are celebrating this remarkable milestone because of Capt. Bouvier’s passion and dedication to our military’s most critical mission—deterring strategic attacks on our nation,” Coffelt said. “I am extremely proud to serve with Paul and recognize him for his incredible 400 alerts as an ICBM launch officer at two of our three missile wings and onboard the E-6B as a member of U.S. STRATCOM’s Airborne Command Post team. His service in these positions of great responsibility over so many nuclear alerts has greatly contributed to the enduring pursuit and achievement of U.S. STRATCOM commander Gen. Hyten’s priorities for our command….Strategic deterrence, decisive response and a combat-ready force.”
Bouvier hopes that the officers entering the field see that events like 400th alerts are being celebrated, and are then encouraged to strive for those landmarks themselves.
“I hope to remind everyone in the missile community that out of everything we do, alert is the number one priority,” he said.