MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. - They call this part of Montana "Big Sky Country," with rolling plains, few trees and lots of, well, sky. It's also where a Vermont man calls home, with a job of protecting the U.S. in an area slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn C. O'Grady, son of Robert O'Grady of Lamb Hill Road, Wells, and Dale Sullivan of Furnace Street, Poultney, is a missile alert facility manager at this intercontinental ballistic missile base, one of only three remaining in the U.S. During the Cold War, the U.S. had hundreds of such missles bases.
O'Grady is assigned to the 490th Missile Squadron with the responsibility maintaining the missile systems.
"I maintain, inspect, and repair the nuclear missile alert facilities in rural Montana," said O'Grady. "I am also responsible for emergency generator operation, water and fuel system maintenance, and management of up to 30 security and maintenance personnel.
"If we weren't here, the United States wouldn't have a nuclear deterrence and launch capability," he added.
For O'Grady and other airmen stationed here, Montana is either one of the best places to be stationed or one of the worst. Montana can be a haven for the outdoorsman and traveler with major national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone just a few hours away. For others, being in an out-of-the way place like Malmstrom can make a tour seem isolated.
"Montana has a very diverse landscape and climate," said O'Grady. "I spend my time off taking my children hunting, fishing, and camping."
O'Grady has been in the Air Force for 10 years.
"I have been stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, in Abilene, and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam before transferring to Malmstorm," he said.