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9S100’s Nuclear detection: can’t hide from science

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Abbey Rieves
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

The 312th Training Squadron’s Special Instruments Training is where innovation meets creativity.

Student education stems from mathematics and science, designed to power their future role detecting nuclear activities for the Department of Defense.

Students gather in a classroom, their curiosity sparking like the electrical components scattered across their desks.

 “Our classical mission is nuclear treaty monitoring,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Swords, 312th TRS Special Instruments Training instructor. “Anytime a country sets off a nuclear weapon– whether in space, on the ground, underground, in the water, wherever– we will detect it and report it to congress and the president.” 

“We are the only military branch in the DOD to do nuclear deterrence the way we do it,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Bufford, 312th Training Squadron SPINSTRA instructor. “As a small career field, there are a lot of opportunities, and we get our hands in everything.”

Tech. Sgt. Swords mentioned an opportunity these students in the Air Force specialty code 9S100 will encounter is to innovatively build, create, and fix problems in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance machines that “do not exist”.

“The major impact we have on the DOD is our ability to be put in areas where missions do not exist, but the DOD sees a need for 9S100s to do that ‘thing’ or mission,” continued Swords. “Our biggest contribution is not necessarily one mission, but the ability to do any mission in the DoD.”

Through adapting and overcoming challenges, the SPINSTRA schoolhouse trains Airmen to champion those critical missions.

The 9S100s are trained to uphold their 24/7, no-fail mission of monitoring the whole world, by instructors who have experienced the emerging dangers the nation faces.

“Being an instructor in this career field is a voluntary assignment,” said Swords. “People want to come back, people want to be instructors. This helps maintain a high level of professionalism and expertise.”

Swords said there are no two instructors who have had the same career path or experiences, which brings in a diverse, wealth of knowledge to the podium.

One instructor, Staff Sgt. Bufford conveys a plethora of knowledge into the classroom.

Bufford is a multi-capable Airman, who mainly instructs geophysical system maintenance, but has qualifications for teaching five additional courses: the general maintenance principle course, inorganic chemistry, classical physics, ISR principles and geophysical data analysis.

“Sergeant Bufford is a new instructor, but he’s already making an impact,” said Swords. “He helped transform our plan of instruction into an interweaving schedule.”

Aside from modernizing academia, Bufford also specializes in nuclear deterrence, and continuously improves his skillset in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

“We use science and technology to exploit our enemies,” said Bufford. “You can’t hide science. If the enemy is doing something underground, it will create seismic waves. If the enemy is doing something nuclear above ground, it will generate particulates in the air.”

Using half-lifes, weather, and sensor packages, Bufford trains 9S100s to determine where, when, and what the adversary is testing, training, or utilizing- even if the country denies it.

“How can you detect a nuclear explosion? Well, nuclear explosions are just science,” said Bufford. “Adversaries can’t hide science; we exploit that and use it to defend our nation.”

The individual talents like Bufford’s advantageously adds to the strong noncommissioned officer corps and builds value to a cause much bigger.

“Sergeant Bufford’s biggest contribution is how much he cares,” said Swords. “He’s one of the most knowledgeable instructors in the seismic course, but his passion about his students and the San Angelo community is where he shines as an instructor.”

“Instructing is something you have to be passionate about,” said Bufford. “You always have to put your best foot forward, because you are influencing the next generation of Airmen.”