MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. | “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” These are the words former President Theodore Roosevelt spoke about his style of foreign policy and it’s still relevant today.

The United States has been a nuclear deterrent since the 1940s. Many have questioned whether it’s necessary to possess nuclear weapons, however, I believe it is necessary in order for the U.S. to remain a capable and credible force.

Before joining the Air Force, I never thought much about the security that nuclear weapons provide America and its allies. Now being a part of a missile wing for two years has enhanced my perspective and allowed me to do a lot of thinking.

I had the privilege to attend the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference recently, where senior leaders from the past and present Air Force as well as Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke on the state of our military.

It was an honor to sit and listen to our leaders speak strategically about changing processes and how they are working to better our military. Inspiration, innovation and modernization were the reoccurring messages I heard throughout the entire event.

One message that stood out is the need to upgrade our nuclear weapons system, but why should we spend billions of dollars on the ground-based strategic deterrent?

Simply put, so our families can sleep peacefully at night.

What price tag would you put on your personal safety or national security? How could the U.S. respond to a threat from our adversaries if our system becomes outdated and they know we aren’t capable? I feel that is why our leaders are saying the time for an upgrade is now.

“(Ground-based strategic deterrence) has brought the passion back,” said Maj. Gen. Cotton, 20th Air Force commander in a recent article on AF.mil. “We are putting our money where our mouth is in regards to revitalization and modernization of a very potent weapons system, (making it) an even more lethal weapons system in the future.”

The simplicity of nuclear weapons is not that they start war, but it’s there as a tool to prevent it. No one wants to use a nuclear weapon, but possessing them alone sends a message to our adversaries that is loud and clear – we are a force to be reckoned with.

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I would love to imagine a world without the need for nuclear weapons, wouldn’t you? It seems the unfortunate truth is that they aren’t going away anytime soon.

“The wings have never been more important than they are today,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in a recent article on AF.mil. “The men and women who are performing the intercontinental ballistic missile mission...are what keeps the world from completely spinning off its axis.”

I do believe it is our responsibility as a nation to continue to modernize our weapons systems, protect our people and allies, and keep our adversaries at bay by remaining flexible, adaptable and always ready for the fight.

I believe we must speak softly but always carry the big stick.

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Managing editor

Chris Huber is the managing editor at the Rapid City Journal.