Comments: 2785 • Responses: 81  • Date: 


HELLO FRIEND AMERICAN GIJOE BUDDY! As you can plainly see, I am American- just like you! Why not we go to local American bar and drink the Budweiser and hit on the bitches! Ok, my friend, send instantly message and I meet you shortly!

vmikey858 karma

Best comment of the day!

LurkerMcLurkerton693 karma

4 8 15 16 23 42

vmikey532 karma

lol! Lost was an absolute favorite down there.

vmspionage648 karma

would you rather:

  1. set the world on fire

  2. start a flame in my heart

vmikey318 karma


Reverend_X433 karma

How many times a week on average would someone walk in on you "polishing your rocket"?

vmikey616 karma

lol. No comment. But you can put this one together on your own. You're 100ft underground. Lonely. And there's not much to do. Doesn't take a rocket scientist, so to speak :)

Oracle712195 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. How did you cope underground for so long with the knowledge that you possess the ability to destroy a nation ?

vmikey578 karma

Actually many nations! Hell I could do Luxembourg and a few Caribbean islands with my flight of 10 missiles alone. But you don't think like that. We're the only people in the military who are paid NOT to use their weapons.

Oracle71226 karma

Would you have to under go a rigorous psych evaluation before even being considered for your post?

vmikey65 karma

Yes and mental screenings never stop, really. You're constantly monitored for both mental and physical health.

pacp376 karma


vmikey725 karma

That's about right. You can have very busy days in the capsule. The missiles are 40 years old, so require considerable maintenance. The security systems are so good, tumbleweeds and jackrabbits can set them off. Sometimes we have to retarget the missiles, sometimes we go through exercises. But down time, like on night shift, is quiet. I would get through entire seasons of tv shows that crew members would leave down in the capsule. And I pounded through a library's worth of books.

UPDATE Thanks for the front page love! Have lurked for a while, understand this is a big deal. Answer to a few redundant questions:

A. I never came close to turning my key. Only in training. That means we're doing our jobs well!

A. No, I don't support more U.S. nuclear reductions, for many reasons. The most important being, I don't think lowering our gloves stops us from being punched. And if we're not punched, we don't have to punch back.

A. No, I've never had a UFO "turn off" my nukes. (really, guys?)

A. Would prefer to leave the question of sexual gratification in the capsules to your imaginations, vivid as they are :)

A. I am a former missileer and do not have, want, or need permission to do this AMA from the USAF. My answers are deliberately nebulous and unclassified. And, therefore, kosher!

A: That said, the Air Force is so clunky an inept when it comes to social media, there is probably some poor public affairs officer now tasked in trying to discover my identify -- even though there's nothing they could do if they found it. I wish we had the Navy's Public Affairs team, those guys really have their shit together!

navarone249 karma

Can you explain "retarget the missiles"?

vmikey488 karma

Sure, different circumstances require different targeting. Day to day, they are pointed at a remote grid of ocean. And the earth shifts a few feet every year, so we'll do retargeting to adjust for that terrain change.

Sparkism372 karma

In the event of a Nuclear Holocaust like Fallout, would your base make a good safehouse, or would it be the center of a feral ghoul infestation?

vmikey651 karma

Well in the Cold War, you expected the Russians to hit you right back with a counterstrike. So our bunkers would be a TERRIBLE place to be. On the other hand, a fantastic place to ride out a Zombie Apocalypse.

belgarion89336 karma

What was the security screening like? Can you tell us how high you're cleared?

vmikey533 karma

All missileers require a Top Secret with a NC2 designation. Stands for Nuclear Command and Control, means you can look at launch codes.

Iwantasheetonmybed315 karma

Well...what were they?

mazimi1286 karma

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A.

vmikey2102 karma

You know I punched that into the console a few times and it didn't do anything except give me 30 extra missiles.

teddywookie277 karma

Do you guys really wear Snuggies?

vmikey597 karma

Not everyone! But the uniform standards are relaxed. You sit behind two giant steel blast doors. Your crew partner is usually asleep in the rack. So sweats, jeans, anything that's comfortable. On one alert, the equipment that cools our communications equipment broke. Capsule temp spiked up to about 101. I spent that one in my underwear.

Vakz356 karma

There is something very strange with the image of a guy sitting in an underground bunker, in his underwear, launching nukes.

vmikey136 karma

You're telling me pal!

JENBubbie270 karma

Are you guys on 24/7 video surveillance? Does someone watch what you are doing down there?

vmikey544 karma

We are not. We're officers who monitor the missiles and associated security teams. And our security is excellent! I was on alert during the Haitian earthquake, and knew about it in real-time. Our motion detectors are so good, they detected the quake as it was happening and sent me an alarm that there might be someone trying to tunnel to the missiles.

-Taqvi349 karma

Is someone tunneling to your missiles a real threat?

vmikey644 karma

Of course! If someone is digging a long tunnel through frozen tundra to access a nuclear missile, sure bet they don't "got good in their heart," as my Grandma used to say.

espero219 karma

I wonder, what did your grandma think about nuclear arms?

vmikey760 karma

well, she voted for Reagan twice...

ataraxia_nervosa258 karma

Is it true that the missiles were set to launch code 000000000000 for the longest time?

vmikey494 karma

I read that story. Of course I would never comment on launch codes!

TET879243 karma

If you were ordered to fire would you feel bad for being responsible for the death of millions of people? How much thought do you give the possibility of firing?

vmikey502 karma

You're trained to process through your launch checklist without emotion. I've never had to do it in what we call "real world," only exercises. I think that I would feel a deep sense of sadness that events deteriorated so badly that I would have to do my job. But I think not doing my duty would make me feel worse. We haven't used nukes since 1945. If I received a launch order, we all know it would be a last resort from our country.

scrambledeggman233 karma

Are there any TV shows or movies that you feel give an accurate depiction of what life is like in an underground bunker?

vmikey458 karma

There's a movie called First Strike that was commissioned by the Air Force during the Carter years. It shows a Minuteman II capsule in launch procedures, as well as the rest of the deterrent. It's on YouTube and procedures are quite accurate for a 30 year old film.

strhally3208 karma

was there a time you almost pushed the button?

vmikey348 karma

Not once. Thank God! We go up to higher states of readiness if the threat is serious enough. On 9/11, my understanding is the missile force was puckered pretty tight, ready to pop. Day to day, we're usually just making sure the ICBMs are healthy and ready to fire if needed. Some people say we're on "hair trigger alert," but that's a bit of a misnomer.

The_One_Above_All84 karma

| On 9/11, my understanding is the missile force was puckered pretty tight, ready to pop.

Were you off duty on 9/11?

vmikey308 karma

I was still in college

chumpkin207 karma

Did you ever have any luxuries down there? Like good meals, beer, or even some McDonalds or other fast food?

vmikey625 karma

Great question. We had a chef that would bring us our meals down. Also had a microwave. One of my friends used to bring a campfire stove down and grill steaks. No beer! Drinking while on nuclear alert, is.. ahem, discouraged :)

joker_mkd196 karma

Do you know what is happening in the outside world? Or are you completely isolated and just get commands over the "red phone"?

vmikey340 karma

We do. No red phone, that's a bit of a myth. All messages come in encrypted over several different satellite systems. We know what's going on up there. In fact, we had internet installed recently (no I'm not in the bunker right now). We also have satellite tv and a dvd player.

kmihic168 karma

How did you come across obtaining this job?

vmikey292 karma

You have to commission in the U.S. Air Force. So college degree first. Be selected for the duty, it's not hard to get (most want to be flyers). Then you have to pass a tight security background check and go through rigorous training at Vandenberg AFB in California (GREAT assignment, I surfed when I wasn't in the training simulator).

SerCiddy61 karma

Oh man surfing up there is the best, my dad and I surf Jalama all the time.

vmikey189 karma

We had our own beach, right near the space launch sites. It was fantastic, except for the great whites.

MD_NP12168 karma

Was there ever any pressure. A time where you thought that there would be a legitimate launch? Care to share?

vmikey242 karma

Not once. See above. My understanding is that readiness was high on 9/11, but that's the closest we've gotten since the Cold War.

56kuser109 karma

what would've been the target on 9/11?

vmikey316 karma

Well it's not a matter of target, exactly. The country was attacked. This has only happened a few times in our history. Since WWII, we developed a system that postures the military to respond in the event of an attack. Reservists and Guardsmen are activated, planes start fueling, Navy ships sortie out to sea, etc etc. The same posturing happens in the missile field. We do things like empty out every unsecured item in the capsule, for example. If we were nuked in retaliation, the capsule would shake so hard a penny would turn into a bullet. That's why we strap into our command chairs like we're sitting in a rollercoaster, and lock our chairs into the ground.

Infallible_Ibex90 karma


vmikey78 karma

well there's only two of us out there. So if we got advanced notice before a launch, we'd do the tossing first, then launching when the order came.

malcolio143 karma

What do you think of the opening scene of Red Alert 2? Specifically this scene:

vmikey317 karma

Loved RA2! (What has EA done to such a great franchise!???). Not bad for a boutique video game company, but not quite accurate either :D

Drag0nflamez73 karma

Speaking of which, how did you play video games in there? Were personal computers (without internet obviously, and with emphasis on the personal bit) allowed?

vmikey371 karma

This is a great question, worthy of a topic unto itself. Video games are a no-go down there. Any electronics not cleared through the systems center at Hill AFB are thought to disrupt the equipment. But people do it anyway. I never thought lugging my xbox out there was worth the effort. But I would if I had a new game like Gears of War or Halo or CoD that had a campaign to pound through. Hell I got through GoW2 in one shift "at console." One of our NCOs topside figured out how to play World of Warcraft from his room. To this day I can't understand how he pulled it off. No internet connection in his room and there was ZERO cell services. But he did it with a great connection. That guy is my hero, also a pretty fearsome Tauren Shaman, as I understand it.

Turdicus_153 karma

The officers in charge of nuclear missiles are playing WoW. hm.

vmikey103 karma

didn't say that! I said the NCO who sits topside. Though there were certainly guys who played back at home. We had some winters worthy of Westoros out there. Anything to entertain...

orchardraider142 karma

Thanks for doing this! Always wondered about you guys since I watched War Games as a kid. So, couple of questions:

  1. Are you armed, and if so, are you expected to 'persuade' your crewmate if he won't turn the key when the order comes?

  2. You mentioned retargeting your missiles in one answer. Do you know where your missiles are pointed, or is it more a case of typing in some opaque code that the computer uses to set up the coordinates? (I'm pretty sure you don't have a map of the world on a screen with a mouse-controlled crosshair on it, but maybe you get to see the lat/long.)

vmikey221 karma

  1. No sidearms! They had them during the Cold War but were long gone by the time I got on crew.
  2. Codes. Didn't know where they were pointed, but the information was available if we needed or wanted it. I didn't want it. I may have visualized the target and had reservations about launching.

bipo16 karma

How long does it take to switch targets on those puppies? Is it a complicated or really quick and simple process?

vmikey31 karma

We can do it fast. Frighteningly fast, actually.

magicbullets142 karma

Did the isolation of your working environment affect you in any way?

vmikey244 karma

Some find it draining. Others like the quiet. Just like combat, it affects different people in different ways.

thc1138142 karma

What is the process for launching a nuclear missile?

The president gave the order to attack. What happens between that moment and you watching the missile leave the silo? What do you do to actually launch the missile? I don't think it's a big red button with a black and yellow plastic cover.

vmikey325 karma

Well most of it is classified. Needless to say, we can execute very quickly if so ordered. The unclassified version is that we receive an encrypted message over 5 different communications systems, some that can break through EMP effects. We verify the message is properly formatted and we authenticate it using authenticators sealed in a safe with two locks on it (this way no one person can access launch codes). If the bunkers were destroyed but the missiles left standing, a special plane can fly overhead and launch the missiles from the air. I always thought of Aliens -- let's take off and nuke the site from orbit!

Veeoh93 karma

"a special plane can fly overhead and launch the missiles from the air"

Kinda scary.

vmikey170 karma

The missiles have to go into what's called Radio Mode. If the ICBMs don't hear from the capsule for a set period of time, radio mode activates. Otherwise we don't give the plane that authorization.

Incursus147 karma

I recently visited the Titan II Missile Museum down in Tuscon, AZ. The technology is older than what the OP is probably working with, but the gist of it was this: (keep in mind that this is Cold War technology and has probably advanced significantly)

  • An alarm sounds and a code is read over a loudspeaker into the control room

  • A safe is unlocked using two combinations, each one only known to one of the two officers in the control room

  • From the safe comes a launch code that matches the code read off the speaker, but has six or so more characters to complete the code

  • The full code is entered onto a panel, unlocking the launch mechanism (in the case of the Titan II, a butterfly valve that controls the flow of oxidizer into the rocket motor)

  • A target is selected

  • Both officers in the control room must turn a key at the same time, authorizing the launch

  • You push the launch button and that rocket is now going no matter what

  • Upon launching of the rocket, the silo seals itself from the outside world. Food is stocked for about a month inside and the entire structure floats on giant springs to minimize damage in case the silo is struck with a missile. You can manually open up an escape shaft to leave or allow fresh air into the facility. At this point you're essentially waiting out a nuclear war.

vmikey158 karma

Titan II is a super old system, but my understanding is that it's a great tour. They also had a 4-man crew, which is so foreign to me it may as well have been a Russian system!

desuanon111 karma

As a command post controller, I'm a little uncomfortable with this. Not sure if you are legit. I'm suprised you don't have a kitchen, I'd assume you'd be working 12 hour shifts.

What rank/service are you in?

vmikey200 karma

We had a kitchen topside and a chef. And Command Posts have the luxury of being back on base and taking calls about kittens in trees, so I'm not surprised it sounds a bit foreign (sorry! Had to!). But to answer your question, I was a captain, an instructor in OSS, crew commander, deputy, and had the distinct privilege of the infamous 3 day alert period. That should be plenty to assuage your concerns.

Stat_Zombie106 karma

Was it a two key system like in the movies? Where you issued a hand gun and told to shoot the other guy/gal if they didn't "turn their key"?

vmikey193 karma

No guns! It does take four hands to launch, so there are two sets of launch switches and one of those switches requires a key. That key is locked in a safe with two locks on it, so one person can't get at it.

likely_controversial105 karma

Any times you panicked or made a mistake?

Where is the missile field? Can you point to it on google earth?

vmikey222 karma

I made lots of mistakes! Some small, like breaking the toilet (this causes ALL kind of problems), one or two big ones, like entering the wrong value on retargeting procedure. Fortunately you have redundancy after redundancy to ensure these are fixed and fixed quick!

panamaspace142 karma

What's the redundancy procedure on a broken toilet? Inquiring minds want to know.

vmikey213 karma

It involves calling a plumber back on base! Can take HOURS.

SomeMagicHappens224 karma

Do the plumbers need high level clearance to go down there too? Does the US army have a squad of secret-facility-plumbers on standby?

vmikey198 karma

The plumbers are actually airmen or DoD civilians with a secret clearance. They don't see anything, just the toilet. Which looks like the commode on an airplane.

pacp91 karma

You a communist?

vmikey184 karma

no Sir, never met one.

Thomasdah21 karma

I have met one in your position, and he would not have pushed the button.

vmikey22 karma

Like in that new FX show, the Americans?

Korypal90 karma

First off thank you for the AMA, I was wondering if you ever had to run a test unknowingly, as in you got a certain call and you have to respond by doing the entire launch process. Not sure if that makes sense but at the beginning of the movie "Wargames" this happens and the missile operators are unaware that it is only a simulation.

vmikey131 karma

Never! Makes for great cinema but that's a terrible idea! What if an enemy found out that 70% of people wouldn't launch? If our adversaries suspect our deterrent doesn't work, it wouldn't deter very well!

vmikey6 karma

Definitely not! Everything we do down there is tightly regimented and monitored. We have checklist after checklist. The USAF trains with a "zero defect" mentality, and the culture is deeply intolerant of errors --both in training and in the field.

iamaredditer85 karma

How many people are stationed in these underground bunkers? What did you guys do for entertainment?

vmikey159 karma

3 missile fields have 150 missiles each on alert. Each squadron has 50 missiles controlled by 5 flights of 2 crew members each. So at any given time there's 90 missileers on alert. It was much higher during the Cold War, when we had 9 missile fields.

justintimme84 karma


vmikey212 karma

It's hard. They do tight screening in training to make certain you're willing to "turn the key." I struggled with it at times. I'm a man of faith and sometimes duties conflict. But I also saw the intelligence on other nations, not friendly to the U.S., who had WMDs. I think that my willingness to execute a launch order, strange as it sounds, helps keep the wolves at bay. People hate you for it sometimes and some think you're a monster, but the peace is worth it.

Maude_Lebowski54 karma

On the "turn the key" front... Are there actually keys? Do you guys have independent authorization confirmation? Or does Obama just get on the phone and say, "Fire them up"?

jebusv20170 karma

I think it is more along the lines of 'FIRE ZE MISSLES!'

vmikey161 karma

That clip was very, very popular back in the day!

ryansoper7 karma

This is my argument for nuclear weapons. I doubt we'll see them used in our lifetime. But we cannot get rid of our own, they are a deterrent nowadays.

Drag0nflamez3 karma

They have always been. The leader of the Manhattan Project asked his wife to give a lot of information to the Soviets because he knew damn well that if the Soviet Union wouldn't get nuclear weapons in time, that another war wouldn't be too far away.

vmikey4 karma

I've read something along those lines, would love to learn more about it.

Sydthebarrett74 karma

Its easy for a lot of people not actively involved in your field to really not consider the threat of nuclear attacks, but did working down there heighten your awareness/realization of how immanent a nuclear threat can be? Is it as bad as we think it is, or will we pretty much blow anything out of the water before it makes any distance? Also, besides just launching an attack, how well prepared is our counter attack system?

vmikey218 karma

Yes! It's scary sometimes. It's really fashionable to be against nuclear weapons. I kind of envy those people, because they picture the world as we all want it to be. Peaceful and free from assholes who would use the damn things. My duty was to make sure they were NEVER used, and to accomplish that, I had to make sure my missiles were healthy, ready to launch, and credible -- so that no bad guy thinks they can get away with using WMDs without a mean counterpunch.

Cbob2070 karma


karmanaut179 karma

OP has verified with the mods.

vmikey47 karma

thanks for your help!

vmikey47 karma

Hmm, not sure how to prove it?

dabnoob16 karma

Send some identifcation to the mods

vmikey17 karma

How? New to reddit?


What type of failsafes are there to make sure that a crew doesn't decide to fire off the missiles?

vmikey125 karma

Plenty! We don't know about many of them as crew members, as they deal with bomb design and that requires a different set of expertise (and a Q clearance). While on alert, we are the biggest failsafe. If codes are somehow obtained and a missile is "enabled", other capsules can quickly shut it down. It's never happened, from what I can tell. But any launch requires layers of codes and the willingness of many people. It's a good system. Never had an accidental launch or detonation.

King_of_lemons68 karma

what is the equivalent of the big red button?

vmikey130 karma

four launch switches :)

BrownBicycle63 karma

What was the creepiest part of the bunker?

vmikey193 karma

There's all kinds of myths about "haunted" bunkers. I think it stems from long periods of isolation. I had an instructor who swore he heard a little girl's voice singing when he opened the blast door. I believe him, but always thought it was sensory deprivation rather than supernatural.

vmikey192 karma

I should add that there were no bunkers, to my knowledge, that displaced any Indian burial grounds when they were built.

MonetaryFlame60 karma

Was there chinese food?

vmikey109 karma

No delivery, alas. Unless you brought it and microwaved it. The command bunkers are very, very remote. It was a two hour drive from base just to get to the alert site.

Joner1456 karma

Is your favorite movie 'Dr. Strangelove'?

vmikey94 karma

No but watching while on Alert was surreal!

RodG130038 karma

What's the best aspect of your job? Worst?

vmikey72 karma

That's a really good question. The best part, I think, was the camraderie. You have a crew force full of great people in their mid-20s that share the same trials and joys (fewer joys, alas) of missile duty. We used to rent a condo at the local ski resort, get season passes, and disappear to the mountain when we got off alert. But the duty is hard. It's emotionally taxing, it's rigorous in training and operations. You are constantly being inspected, which is always cause for stress. And the worst part is, you know there are guys in places like Iraq and Afghanistan putting their lives on the line while you complain about a job with hot meals and a warm bed. It drained me, and I separated as soon as I was eligible. Though I'm thankful and grateful for the experience.

kulps35 karma

How do you fight the boredom? I assume you would be isolated from the outside world, to a degree.
Are you granted R&R or is it a long term assignment?

vmikey63 karma

Well you fought the boredom best you could. I read books and watched DVDs. You do get leave, but the months are long. Between training and traveling to and from the missile field, you can end up working 26-27 days a month.

tilley7734 karma

Are there any official plans for what to do when its all over and you launched the missiles?

vmikey103 karma

Yes there's an escape hatch filled with sand. It only gets you part of the way there. You dig the rest :)

vmikey30 karma

No! It's never happened and during the Cold War, when these procedures were written, we all expected to be dead.

ERankLuck27 karma

Former missile comm from FE Warren here (I'm actually moving off base today to take a job with Boeing). Glad to see you using proper OPSEC with your posts, though you should be warned that a guy from my shop did an AMAA like this and got in a ton of trouble in spite not saying anything that couldn't be found on Wikipedia or whatever.

What base you at?

vmikey28 karma

Former! Congrats on the new gig!

ThiefMaster27 karma

Do you have a self-destruction device down there (for the bunker/missiles down there, not an already-launched one)? Would you refuse to do you job when asked to launch on e.g. Germany, UK or Canada (or pretty much any other civilized country)?

If you could and have to launch a single nuke on some target of your choice (that is not the ocean or some desert) while knowing for sure that there would be no repercurssions such as WW3 - what would you hit?

vmikey87 karma

lol, no! Orders came through via encryption so we didn't necessarily know where the missiles were going.

Third question: Moon. Obviously. Must be destroyed.

fatalcockslap16 karma


vmikey21 karma

most are about 100ft down.

dabnoob16 karma

What happens when there is a fire breaking out in the bunker? Were you allowed to try extinguishing it or would you just run away or...?

vmikey24 karma

You have a few ways of extinguishing it, evacuating is a last resort. Everything is redundant, so another crew can assume control of your missiles if necessary.

plasstick_phorque16 karma

Would you live in Minot for the rest of your life?

vmikey21 karma

I wouldn't live there for a week!

smartkid10100114 karma

Did you ever think of dropping a missile on Justin Bieber's house?

vmikey67 karma

That's up to President Obama. But I would expect every officer in the United States Air Force do to his duty :D !!

spurgetrangus13 karma

Did you ride a missile like a cowboy at any point?

vmikey17 karma


hawkens8512 karma

OPSEC, soldier.

vmikey10 karma

Airmen. You're right on OPSEC! Nothing here classified. And I left service some time ago.

kurtisek8 karma

Does your body seem to have experienced any effects from being closer to the center of the earth for a considerable amount of your life (e.g., quicker aging effects)?

vmikey29 karma

I'm not sure. Many of us develop mild health problems after a 4 year crew tour. But it's safer than Afghanistan, so none of us would dare complain.

ILL_Show_Myself_Out7 karma

Do you support further dismantlement of the United States' current nuclear arsenal?

vmikey7 karma

I don't, unless we committ to building a new bomb. You see, most of these weapons are OLD. The last one we built was during the Reagan years. We cannibalize the decommissioned bombs to keep a smaller force, 800 warheads or so, on alert. When you delay modernizing for that long, you get parts that decay and corrode. The older bombs provide parts that we no longer have the means to build, like tritium triggers.

aliweb5 karma

Need some proof.

vmikey10 karma

I'm new to Reddit. I want to stay anonymous for obvious reasons. But happy to prove, as if the esoteric answers aren't enough! What do you suggest?

TalkingBackAgain1 karma

I read here, not too long ago [and through other sources equally unreputable ;-)] that for the longest time the launch code was all zeroes.

Have you actually seen that?

During your tests to see if you'd be a suitable missile man, were you actually required to 'push the button', to see if you had the stomach for it?

vmikey3 karma

I saw, but that was a declassified Cold War article that relied on somewhat different systems than what we used today. And I never looked at real launch authenticators, only simulated. We'd be in real trouble if I did!

dcobs1 karma

Did you maintain the missles as well or was there a tech crew that would do inspections and make repairs?

vmikey3 karma

Tech crews. Those guys are amazing! They work outside, sometimes until the early hours, in subzero temperatures. We sat in a climate control bunker and monitored what they were doing, to ensure nothing was tampered with. We also processed them on and off site. Ensuring the blast door is closed when they leave is... important :)