By Rich Lamance
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. – They call this part of Montana “Big Sky country,” with rolling plains, few trees and lots of, well, sky. It’s also where the son of a Brawley couple calls home, with a job of protecting the U.S. in an area slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
Air Force Senior Airman Michael C. Ruelas, son of Manuel and Socorro Ruelas of Brawley, is a security force armorer at this intercontinental ballistic missile base, one of only three remaining in the U.S. The 341st Missile Wing is one of the largest units in the Air Force, with 150 Minuteman III missiles spread out over 13,800 square miles within 15 missile alert facilities, and more than 4,000 military and civilians, making it the largest complex of its kind in the western hemisphere.
Ruelas is assigned to the 341st Security Support Squadron with the responsibility over millions of dollars worth of weapons equipment. “My job here on the base consists of keeping track of $6.1 million worth of weapons, ammunition, and equipment needed to complete our nuclear mission here at Malmstrom Air Force Base,” said Ruelas, a 2004 graduate of Brawley Union High School.
To support such a large operation requires help from just about every corner of the Air Force career specialties. Everything from admin to chefs, missile crewman, missile alert officers, security forces, helicopter pilots and maintenance, communications, services, medical and dental – it all adds up to one of the biggest support operations in the military.
“Without the work of my fellow airmen and me, we would not be able to fulfill our daily mission in protecting our nuclear weapons,” said Ruelas.
For Ruelas and other airmen stationed here, Montana is either one of the best places to be stationed or one of the worst. Montana can be a haven for the outdoorsman and traveler with major national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone just a few hours away. For others, being in an out-of-the way place like Malmstrom, with no major metropolis or urban centers nearby, can make a tour seem isolated.
“Life in Montana has been a different lifestyle from back home,” said Ruelas. “The snow and constant weather changes make it hard to adjust to Montana.
Ruelas has been in the Air Force for three years. “I have enjoyed my Air Force career and I plan on having a great career saving my country,” he said.