U.S. Air Force missileer officers are currently serving multi-year tours with a component command under Commander, Submarine Forces (SUBFOR) in Norfolk.
Maj. Cory Elder and Capt. Anthony Ferrelli serve as joint exercise planning officers with the Submarine Force.
The Navy has a history of using long acronyms, and to understand the roles both officers, it’s important to understand the mission of JFMCC STRAT.
Joint Force Maritime Component Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (JFMCC STRAT) conducts joint maritime operations and executes the maritime aspects of strategic deterrence. The long designation emphasizes the complicated and important mission for the Navy.
“JFMCC STRAT is the U.S. Strategic Command’s (USSTRATCOM) arm of the Navy,” Elder said. “We’re the component that manages operational control of all SSBN and E6-B aircraft, comprising the most survivable one-third of the nation’s nuclear triad.”
The “triad” refers to the three strategic nuclear delivery vehicles serving as the backbone of the nation’s national security and providing 24/7 deterrence against adversaries. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force, ballistic missile submarines of the Submarine Force, and the nation’s bomber fleet comprise the weapons systems and platforms of the triad.
So how do Air Force officers end up in the Submarine Force?
In order to maintain nuclear deterrence, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) and U.S. Navy SUBFOR participate in a dual-service, nuclear exchange program to enhance interoperability within the nation’s nuclear enterprise.
The program, named Striker Trident, aims to professionally develop nuclear officers. The exchange program hand selects ICBM officers in various AFGSC units, and assigns them to SUBFOR. Likewise, submarine warfare qualified officers are selected and assigned to AFGSC units.
“This program enables Navy and Air Force nuclear-qualified officers to understand other aspects of the nuclear triad, as well as each leg's respective role in U.S. Strategic Command's deterrence mission,” Elder said. “My role here is planning joint exercises on behalf of the JFMCC, such as Global Thunder, an annual field training exercise designed to train USSTRATCOM forces and assess joint operational readiness across all USSTRATCOM mission areas; and Exercise Global Lightning, an annual exercise that provides realistic training activities against simulated adversaries, and links with other combatant commands to ensure and improve nuclear readiness and strategic deterrent capabilities.”
In addition to learning the workings of each service’s mission, the program also allows participants a better understanding of branch specific traditions and customs.
“As an Air Force ICBM operator (missileer), I have thoroughly enjoyed immersing in the deep, storied culture of not just the Navy but also the Submarine Service,” Ferrelli said. “The pride exuded by the men and women who wear Dolphins is truly energizing, and for me the best part of working with the Submarine Force is going underway and experiencing the tip of the underwater spear and living the ‘Silent Service’ mantra.”
The mission of the Submarine Force is to execute the Department of the Navy’s mission in and from the undersea domain. In addition to lending added capacity to naval forces, the Submarine Force, in particular, is expected to leverage those special advantages that come with undersea concealment to permit operational, deterrent and combat effects that the Navy and the nation could not otherwise achieve.
The Submarine Force and supporting organizations constitute the primary undersea arm of the Navy. Submarines and their crews remain the tip of the undersea spear.