Col. Lutton takes command

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE The 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base has a new leader.

Col. Michael Lutton became commander of the missile wing in a change of command ceremony Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, commander of 20th Air Force at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., presided over the ceremony.

Lutton and outgoing commander Col. Robert Vercher traded jobs. Vercher will become deputy director of Mission Assessment and Analysis at Headquarters U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, Neb., a position Lutton held from June 2012 until now. Vercher was commander of the Minot missile wing since June 2012.

Lutton said he looks forward to serving the missile wing and its personnel and being part of the base and local community. His wife, Brenda, and their two children, Kyle and Bridget, listened from the audience as he talked about their move to Minot AFB.

Vercher thanked everyone for his time as commander of the missile wing and especially thanked the “Rough Riders,” the men and women of the 91st Missile Wing “who inspire me each day.”

The 91st Missile Wing is one of three operational intercontinental ballistic missile wings in Air Force Global Strike Command. Its mission is to secure, maintain and operate 150 Minuteman III ICBMs in underground facilities in an 8,500-square-mile territory comprised of several counties surrounding the Minot base.

Weinstein, in remarks prior to the formal change of command, thanked members of the missile wing for their “unwavering dedication to the ICBM mission.” He said it is “a demanding business that requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

“Your continued focus on the mission enables the United States to have a safe, secure and effective nuclear force,” Weinstein said. He said it has never failed in deterring this nation’s adversaries. He also said the support of the local community is “absolutely essential.”

Under Vercher’s leadership, Weinstein tallied a number of accomplishments including working with state and local governments and industry representatives on encroachment issues and the successful integration of North Dakota Air National Guard members who provide security in the Minot missile field and for convoy operations. He said Vercher and his wife, Amy, supported the airmen of the wing and also pointed out they have done extensive work for a dramatic reduction of domestic abuse and DUIs. He said the wing also excelled, naming specific inspections.

Weinstein said Lutton “is a brilliant leader.” Lutton is a career space and missile officer. He has served in multiple weapon systems including the Peacekeeper ICBM system and the Milstar satellite communication system.

Weinstein said Tuesday’s change of command comes at a very important time for ICBMs. He said the Force Improvement Program, or FIP, has provided a list of suggested ideas from airman across the command. He said funding will be used to make numerous improvements, including in the missile field and for personnel.

Among changes for missile wings, as soon as Aug. 1 the helicopter squadron at Minot Air Force Base and other ICBM bases will come under a unit of 20th Air Force. Currently, the helicopter squadron’s are under each missile wing.