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Air Force missile crew commander

This April 15, 1997 file photo shows an Air Force missile crew commander standing at the door of his launch capsule 100-feet under ground where he and his partner are responsible for 10 nuclear-armed ICBM's, in north-central Colorado. Twice this year alone, Air Force officers entrusted with the launch keys to nuclear-tipped missiles have been caught leaving open a blast door meant to help prevent a terrorist or other intruder from entering their underground command post and potentially compromising secret launch codes, Air Force officials told The Associated Press. The missiles stand in reinforced concrete silos and are linked to the control center by buried communications cables. The ICBMs are split evenly among “wings” based in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Each wing is divided into three squadrons, each responsible for 50 missiles. (AP Photo/Eric Draper, File)

GREAT FALLS — A contractor has begun work to fill in 50 deactivated Minuteman III missile silos in north-central Montana.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Air Force Civil Engineering Center have chosen Bryan Construction Inc. of Colorado Springs, Colo., to do the work.

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The initial work involves hazardous material surveys and bringing in the gravel and dirt that will be used to fill the underground silos located in Toole, Pondera, Teton and Chouteau counties. The removal of the first launcher closure door is scheduled for late March.

Once the launch facilities are eliminated, likely by early 2015, the land will be available for purchase. Adjacent landowners will have the first right to purchase the land at a fair market price.

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