Meet the Women Standing Between Us and Nuclear War

Marie Claire finds women represent a 'disproportionately high number' of Air Force missileers.

September 12, 2017 5:00 am
Cathy Barrington
Lt. Col. Cathy Barrington, 319th Missile Squadron commander, shows Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel the above-ground support facilities as he visits the E-01 Missile Alert Facility in Kimball County, Neb., Jan 9, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

As President Trump warns that “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible, a new profile in Marie Claire delves deep below the Earth’s surface in the Western United States where a capsule, no bigger than a shipping container, is occupied 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Its inhabitants — an elite squad of Air Force officers, known as “missileers,” who manage and monitor America’s nuclear weapons — rotate through this schedule, waiting for a call they hope never comes.

“We defend the United States with combat-ready nuclear forces, and, on order, we’ll conduct global strike,” Colonel Cathy Barrington told Marie Claire.

Should it come, they are ready. Marie Claire notes that, although women tend to be underrepresented in the military, there are a “disproportionately high number” of women in the role of missileers.  The Air Force has enough to schedule an all-female alert, and getting the job isn’t easy.

“As an American taxpayer, who do you want out there taking care of our nuclear weapons?” Barrington asked. “You want highly capable people who have the highest level of integrity.”

Captain Amber Moore, who has a six-month-old son, echoed these sentiments, saying that part of the job is keeping America’s adversaries on their toes.

“Every day we try to make our enemies ask themselves the question, Does the benefit of attacking the U.S. outweigh the cost? Because they know that we’re always prepared to fire back.”

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