TOP HAND Celebrates Fifty Years of Excellence

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Anthony Santino
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force TOP HAND Program celebrated fifty years of excellence last month with a reunion celebration hosted by the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg Space Force Base (SFB), California.

Over 100 graduates and their family members traveled for the event, which coincided with a successful Minuteman III test launch, GLORY TRIP 246GM. The graduates joined current TOP HAND members for a golf tournament, 50-year anniversary dinner, and a special viewing of GLORY TRIP 246GM which launched from Vandenberg SFB in the early morning hours of April 19th, 2023.

Amongst the attendees were the first four and the most recent two commanders of the 576th Flight Test Squadron.

TOP HAND remains the premier officer development program for America’s best missileers, designed to deliberately cultivate Air Force nuclear leaders. Since its inception in 1972, TOP HAND has grown to include select Non-Commissioned Officers and civilians.

While in the TOP HAND program, members receive experience and training that vastly increases their depth of weapon system knowledge and scope of America’s nuclear enterprise. They graduate as Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) experts, skilled in Air Force Operational Testing and ready for senior staff and leadership positions.

Follow-on assignments for graduates typically include selective headquarters staff positions, competitive intern programs, and nuclear strike advisors. They’re also frequently selected to attend Air Force Intermediate Developmental Education (IDE). The program thrives because the Air Force recognizes the importance of strong leadership in the ICBM business and the value of deliberate professional development throughout the nuclear enterprise.

The TOP HAND program still resides within the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg SFB and has over 420 current members and past graduates. The squadron recently re-organized under the 377th Test and Evaluation Group to prepare for Sentinel testing and remains America’s only ICBM test organization.