(In Part 1 of this series, we learned about Jose Alberto Morales-Velazquez growing up in Puerto Rico and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.)
Jose Alberto Morales-Velazquez was frozen in fear, but not surprised. He knew the flight controller personally, but he also knew how he was trained. If Morales-Velazquez’s name tag doesn’t match the name on the security clearance paperwork, certain measures must be taken.
“Get on the ground and put your hands behind your back!” shouted the security controller.
Morales-Velazquez complied. He lay down on the freezing ground while his hands were swiftly bound.
“Can you please, please just put me in your vehicle?” he begged. Morales-Velazquez remembers how freezing it was that day. He remembers the feeling of his warm Puerto Rican skin drop in temperature as he lay on the frosty asphalt. The situation was soon cleared up.
Fast-forward to June 2002, where he was stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force base in Nebraska. There, he worked in Air Force security, where he insured the safety and health of him and his fellow airmen.
In Puerto Rico, dignity, straightforwardness and bravery are key values practiced in the culture. Morales-Velazquez possesses these qualities and then some. His family upbringing also highlighted the importance of being a team player and someone you could trust.
Because of this upbringing and after his experience in Wyoming, he was able to thrive in Nebraska and climbed through the ranks, earning the rank of sargeant and eventually being responsible for an entire area that was home to nuclear silos and nuclear weapons.
Morales-Velazquez and losing a nuke
Toward the end of his career, there came a day that could have ruined the rest of his life.
Morales-Velazquez was responsible for a team that was transporting a nuclear weapon for maintenance. During the transportation process, he was assigned to check in on his team every 15 minutes. He did this throughout most of his team’s travel time but neglected to do a check-in at a very specific and important moment.
He realized he forgot to check in with his team and tried contacting them. He tried the radio; it wasn’t working. He tried his own personal cellphone; still, nothing was working.
Morales-Velazquez’s heart was beating out of his chest. He didn’t know what to do. He thought to himself, “This is the end of my career, my life…” He frantically continued to try and contact his team from the radio, but now everyone around him knew…
He had lost a nuclear weapon.
Continued in Part 3 tomorrow.