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Niagara: Nuclear Ready Now

  • Published
  • By SMSgt. Andrew Caya
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing

Here’s what has been going on at Niagara during the last six years:

-Our mission changed, so we sent away aircraft our parents and grandparents fixed and flew.

-New operations orders and instructions to learn & memorize.

-Learning to fix and fly a different aircraft...and earning awards while doing it.

-The tenure of multiple wing commanders.

-Countless personnel rotations.

-Dozens of TDYs to other bases to learn the tanker mission.

-Enforced no-failure testing.

-A global pandemic.

-Multiple deployments.

-Deployments during a pandemic.

-A record-breaking blizzard.

-A deployment sendoff only hours after a record-breaking blizzard.

-Federal budget cuts.

-Constant training and 24/7 inspections.


This list is not all-inclusive of what Niagara airmen have handled, but “Whatever.”

Whatever: that is the watchword of Niagara’s senior leader.

“During these last four days, the 914th Air Refueling Wing proved we will finish the mission and we handle Whatever is given,” said Col. Joseph “20-Grit” Contino, 914th Air Refueling wing commander.

Niagara is now certified nuclear-ready after an Air Mobility Command inspection that occurred over the November Unit Training Assembly. This pinnacle event, known as the Initial Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection took place here, Nov. 17-19.

The INORI is the formal evaluation used to determine a unit’s capability to perform and certify as a nuclear support unit and completing this step has  started a new chapter for the 914th Air Refueling Wing to become part of America’s nuclear triad.

Throughout the four-day inspection, the wing was graded on two major areas: Force Generation and Employment.

 “Niagara has coupled ‘Whatever’ with the blue-collar work-ethic of previous generations,” said Contino. “The airmen of the 914th have executed this mission better than some units who have had this mission for decades. One proof is our alert times: they are the fastest in the nuclear enterprise,” he added.

Due to the critical nature of the mission, the inspections are rigorous, detailed, and require a challenging standard of compliance that must be met and sustained during 24/7 operations. To achieve that high standard, training is key.

For years the 914th Inspector General Inspections Office meticulously trained the Wing Inspection Team and, with the help of wing subject matter experts, built and executed multiple Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise preparatory events to stress and prepare the force.

“The amount of time and training that has been expended has been well worth it, as our airmen have unquestionably demonstrated the ability to execute the U.S. Air Force’s top priority mission, said 914th Inspector General Chief of Inspections Maj. Emma “Blade” Steinbar.  “This was a no-fail scenario, as our nation expects all components of the nuclear enterprise to be safe, secure and reliable.”

The INORI validated our expertise to execute the nuclear deterrence mission and provide Whatever resources are needed to protect and defend our nation, said Contino

“More importantly and impressively, 914th Airmen proved they own the “Whatever” mentality,” said Contino. "This generation of Niagara Airmen can be handed anything and they will get the mission done. The generational work-ethic runs deep with our people—so much so that higher headquarters can give us a fan tied to a washing machine and we will get it airborne.”

Contino added that the events from our conversion in 2017 through this weekend have shown that “Niagara airmen will handle Whatever is thrown at them or Whatever our country asks of them .”