Death Wears a Snuggie

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In a recent Wired article, missileer John Noonan recounts his daily life manning an American missile silo. He calls it: In Nuclear Silos, Death Wears a Snuggie. And Noonan really does wear a Snuggie (a blue one), as he waits for orders to launch ICBMs. And waiting is really boring -- like soul-crushingly, tediously, boring. The worst part of the job is that, if all goes well, you will just be alert and ready forever, but never actually perform the task for which you're trained. What a terrifying way to spend a career. Noonan's account is equal parts entertaining and lonesome, as you get a peek inside a job that you really, really, really don't want. Here's a snippet:

Though tedious, missile duty is not without perks. The uniform regulations are relaxed, though not by design. Once the blast door thuds shut and a crew is free from the prying eyes of the public or enlisted personnel topside, out come the pajamas and hooded sweatshirts.

In a favorite missileer uniform patch [above, left], the Grim Reaper sits at an ICBM console, dressed in bunny slippers. In the real world, death wears a campus T-shirt, JCrew bottoms and the ubiquitous Snuggie. The silly blanket-robe hybrid is suited to the missile force, keeping an officer toasty while allowing him to interact with the weapons console unobstructed.

Missileers learn that on alert, comfort is as important as humor. One enterprising fellow liked to string a hammock between the two command chairs and stretch out for his long shifts at the console. Videogame systems are forbidden, a rule that was mocked until it got out that wireless Nintendo Wii controllers could cause the system to detect a false electromagnetic pulse attack and shut down.

Read the rest for a first-person account of working in a real live nuclear silo.

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January 27, 2011 - 9:12am
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