WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Air Force general in charge of the nation’s airborne and ground-launched nuclear missiles has requested an official investigation into the number of Airmen reporting blood cancer diagnoses after serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
The diseases became public knowledge this week after The Associated Press received a military letter stating that at least nine missile launchers – those officers who served in underground bunkers near silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and were on orders for firing Initial keys were responsible – diagnoses of unreported -Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of the officers died.
Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for all siled and airborne nuclear warheads, said in a statement to the AP on Friday that he has requested that the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine conduct a formal one Assessment of reported cancers by.
“The Air Force Global Strike Command and our Air Force take the responsibility of protecting Airmen and Guardians incredibly seriously, and their safety and health is always my top priority,” Bussiere said. “As we continue to work through this process, service members and their families, as well as former service members who have concerns or questions, are encouraged to speak with their healthcare providers.”
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek added in a statement Saturday that the review would go beyond the launch officers originally identified.
Similar nuclear missile facilities are located at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
“Gene. Bussiere requested an assessment of the risks to all airmen and guards involved with the missile community who may be at risk,” Stefanek said.
The Air Force told the AP Jan. 22 that its medical teams were investigating the issue. Bussiere’s motion elevates this to a formal review being conducted by the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.
“We work together to develop options for action for the future. We are committed to remaining transparent throughout this process and are committed to maintaining an open dialogue with members, their families and stakeholders throughout the process,” said Bussiere.
In the past week, other rocket pilots who served at Malmstrom, or their families, have reached out to the AP to share their experiences with diagnosing blood and other cancers.
Concerns about the cancers were raised by a Space Force officer in a January briefing for his unit. Many rocket planes were transferred to the Space Force after its inception. At least 455 Space Force officers, including the senior officer, the new Chief of Space Operations, General Chance Saltzman, served as the missiles.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which affects an estimated 19 in every 100,000 people in the United States each year, according to the American Cancer Society, is a blood cancer that uses the body’s infection-fighting lymphatic system to spread.
For comparison, only about 3,300 troops are stationed at Malmstrom at any one time, and only about 400 of those are deployed either as missiles or as support for these operators. The three bases control a total of 400 Minuteman III ICBMs.
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