Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Marijuana found at nuclear missile facility in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – The military says marijuana was found at a Minot Air Force Base nuclear missile facility in central North Dakota.

Air Force Sgt. Benjamin Smith says the undisclosed amount marijuana was found Oct. 9 at a missile alert facility. He says the drug was discovered above ground and not near missile operators.

Minot has one of the nation’s two B-52 bomber bases and oversees 27 B-52 bombers and 150 Minuteman III missiles, which were built and designed in the 1960s.

The base has been under scrutiny since a 2007 mishap in which a B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in Minot and flown to a base in Louisiana. The warheads were not properly guarded for 36 hours before anyone realized they were missing.

Other lapses include the theft of a launch code device, missile crew members sleeping on the job and failed inspections including hydraulic seals leak, equipment breaks, and transport vehicles failing.

In recent years two commanders have been dismissed at Minot and one reprimanded after Pentagon brass lost confidence in their ability to lead. In addition, 19 officers were stripped of their authority to control and launch the nuclear-tipped missiles that sit in silos, and did not get it back until they completed additional training.

A day in the life of a missileer begins at dawn.  After attending briefings, they drive to a ranch house ringed by razor wire, over an hour away. In the launch control center capsule – 70 feet below ground – airmen are responsible for 10 ICBMs that are located miles away. They spend 24 hours below ground but the often times severe winter weather in the state means that missileers sometimes spend 48 to 72 hours in the capsule.

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Jerek Dufner

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