By Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen members of an Air Force unit responsible for guarding nuclear missiles in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska are under investigation for possible illegal drug activity, including cases involving cocaine use, defense officials said Friday.
The probe is a fresh blow to a nuclear missile corps that has been under intense scrutiny in recent years for a string of lapses in training and personal conduct, first revealed by The Associated Press. The Air Force has said repeatedly over the past year that it is making significant changes aimed at lifting morale and improving performance.
The investigation at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, home of the 90th Missile Wing, near Cheyenne, Wyoming, was announced by Gen. Robin Rand, the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. The command is responsible for the entire fleet of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles that stand in underground launch silos, one third of them operated by the 90th Missile Wing. The missile force is on alert 24 hours a day, year-round, requiring strict adherence to performance standards by the men and women who operate, maintain and protect them.
Rand, speaking by telephone from his headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said the 14 airmen under investigation range in rank from Airman 1st Class to Senior Airman and are members of the security group at F.E. Warren that is responsible for securing the missile fields and convoys that move nuclear weapons.
Rand said the…