KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Nuclear weapons technical inspectors receive standardized instruction and learn hands-on skills through a fairly new and unique course at the Defense Nuclear Weapons School.
The Nuclear Weapons Technical Inspections Course, taught on Kirtland Air Force Base since May 2015, instills a methodology that ensures strict and consistent nuclear weapons technical inspections.
“Inspectors enterprise-wide are held to high standards to help ensure the nuclear stockpile is secure and ready if ever called upon,” said DNWS instructor Lt. Col. Chris Graves.
The Nuclear Enterprise Review highlighted a need for a standardized foundation among Navy and Air Force inspection teams and inspectors regarding the application of criteria within the November 2014 Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJCSI) on nuclear weapons inspections. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) outlines the president’s agenda and identifies five key objectives for the U.S. nuclear stockpile. One objective is sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.
“Nuclear weapons technical inspectors validate the safety, security and effectiveness of nuclear-capable units, assets, personnel and processes… This enhances the capability and credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrence,” Graves said.
The course starts with the basics, covering the nuclear triad and working toward the big picture of the commander-in-chief’s intent regarding the nation’s nuclear stockpile and its function in strategic deterrence.
“This gives (students) the culture of the nuclear enterprise, a better understanding of why inspectors are important within the nuclear mission and where our role is within the NPR,” Graves said.
Many students have extensive background in the nuclear enterprise but are new to the inspection process.
Learning is done through facilitated discussions. Students receive a problem, are asked if they would pass or fail a scenario and then discuss their reasoning.
After the lecture and discussion portion, students inspect a technical operation with a nuclear weapon trainer at Sandia National Laboratories on Kirtland.
“They get to inspect the security and maintenance of a fictitious unit, only miniaturized,” said DNWS former course manager Capt. Ryan VanArtsdalen.
Since the course began, more than 100 inspectors from across the military branches have attended.
“Cross talks and sharing of best practices have created this inspectors course,” said DNWS course manager Navy Lt. Cmdr. Larry Duran.
Navy and Air Force inspectors exchange knowledge and inspection techniques, bringing out best practices from both services.
“As a defense nuclear weapons inspection oversight inspector, I can see the results of this class already,” Graves said.
For information on DNWS courses, contact the registrar at 846-5666.