Hal BidlackHal BidlackAugust 24, 20186min291

I pulled my first alert – as going out to an intercontinental ballistic missile site for a 24-hour tour is called – in the early Fall of 1981. A freshly minted second lieutenant in the United States Air Force, I had finished my “tech school” at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California a few weeks earlier. In that training environment, I was first exposed to the three big elements of being a missile launch officer: weapons system controls, codes, and EWO. Remember, the military loves funny names for things. In plain English, those terms mean the mechanics of operating and controlling the missile systems themselves, while “codes” has to do with how important information is secured within the system, and EWO stands for “emergency war orders,” or more simply put, the top-secret stuff having to do with going to war. Heady stuff to be sure.