Roger Bourassa: Vermont Air Guard’s past nuclear mission
Commentary by Roger Bourassa, published by VTDigger, May 12, 2019
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Roger Bourassa, a native of Winooski currently living in Colchester. He served as an Air National Guardsman for 11 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Last Tuesday afternoon, I spoke before the Vermont Senate Committee on Government Operations regarding Senate Resolution 5, which strongly opposes the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system in Vermont. I told them about my 11 years of service in the Air Guard serving as an F-89 radar intercept officer with the 158th at the Vermont Air National Guard, as a C-97 navigator for Military Airlift Command in New York, and as a weapons system officer for the Air Defense Command in Maine.
As a crew member on the F-89 with the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG), we were to defend the northeastern part of the United States from an attack by Russia. Our F-89s carried nuclear missiles to accomplish this mission. The F-89s carried two high explosive missiles and two self-propelled rockets mounted with nuclear warheads (called the AIR-2 Genie nuclear tipped air-to-air missile). The missiles and nuclear warheads were stored in Burlington. Part of the aircrew checklist was to insure the proper mounting of these weapons prior to taking control of the aircraft and prior to takeoff. As crew members, we were purposely excluded from knowing where the nuclear warheads were stored at the airport. That information was known only by the ground crews responsible for transporting and loading the rockets.
We did not carry nuclear weapons on our routine training flights out of Burlington. Rather we carried inert missiles and rockets on training flights. But our nuclear weapons were armed when the aircraft and crew members were on alert status. Being on alert status meant that our bombers were on the ground loaded with nuclear weapons, and were ready to scramble (take off quickly) once given the order.