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AP team puts human face on toxic dangers faced by Air Force nuclear missile officers

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Through tenacious reporting, character-driven storytelling and FOIA requests, an AP team of Tara Copp, Mike Pesoli, Sagar Meghani and Tommy Martino revealed how some Air Force nuclear missile officers were exposed to toxic risks that have likely been a factor in scores of cancers, despite the military saying for years that its nuclear missile capsules were safe.

Pentagon reporter Copp, video journalist Pesoli, freelancer photographer Martino and Washington audio correspondent Meghani worked to put a human face on a military story AP broke and has led on all year: how toxic exposure in the underground capsules that Air Force nuclear missile officers are assigned to has likely been a factor in the scores of cancers now striking those current and former military personnel. Their all-formats work told this important story through text, video, audio and photos.

The story has had far reach, with readers responding from across the U.S., glad that the capsules are getting a light shined on them. “I have a family member who is a nuclear missileer … and I’ve been waiting for someone to cover this in-depth for years now,” one recent college graduate wrote to Copp.

Copp also received this feedback from a source on Air Force issues: “Your article gave me a better overall appreciation of the overall issue historically and I hope this sparks national conversation and appropriate oversight. … It was an article as good as any (former AP Pentagon reporter Bob) Burns had written during his years bringing nuclear community issues to light.”

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