MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
The old saying goes “there are 2 things for sure, death and taxes.” When Col Christopher Menuey took command of the 91st Missile Wing last summer, there were 2 other “for sures”. 1) That transfer of the command would take place and 2) COVID 19 would make the mission difficult, but as Col Menuey relates “There is no denying that it was hard to continue to operate through COVID 19, but we did. Their (Airmen of the 91 MW) personal lives took the hardest hit. But they maintained a determination to work through it.”
Col Menuey arrived at Minot Air Force Base in July, and COVID 19 numbers were somewhat under control. Soon after, however, the numbers would climb and base personnel would learn the meaning of HPCON (Health Protection Condition Level) Bravo, Bravo +, and ultimately Charlie. “We tried to focus on the family. During COVID 19 Airmen and families felt isolated…not much they could do. Many normal things were cancelled, so we tried to make things work. For example, Halloween took place, but we needed to have social distancing as you went through the lines. Now we are concentrating on building trust, unity and connectiveness and continuing General Ray’s Striker culture initiative. We were able to roll out new on-boarding and really work on welcoming new Airmen and families to Minot. We also made an effort to reach down to the spouses and ask what we could do to stay connected with them during COVID.”
Originally from Iowa, Col Menuey says “I spent my whole life there, all the way through High School.” He then went to the Air Force Academy. “My first day visiting there was the day before I entered, so I didn’t know what I was getting into, other than what was in the catalogue. I joined hoping to be a pilot, but my stomach just didn’t agree with me.”
At the end of his time at the Air Force Academy, “I still wanted to do something operational, so working missiles was it, being I couldn’t be in an airplane.
I have done 2 tours at Malmstrom Air Force Base, I started there, and I just came from there.
After the academy I finished my training out at Vandenburg Air Force Base, went to Malmstrom in 1997. Returned back there as a group commander. I’ve done one tour also down at F.E. Warren, so when I came here it finished off the trifecta” Col Menuey says with a smile.
Minot Gives A Unique Challenge
Minot is unique in having the bomb wing as a mission partner, according to Menuey, “the teamwork between the wings is outstanding.”
“The base is very close to the community here. There is a different vibe here” continues Col Menuey, “it’s the friendliest of the communities we’ve been in. The business partners have taken time to build the relationship with the base, and make it better.”
Other Questions & Responses
The Mission Of The 91 MW
Having Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and the nuclear triad is foundational to our national security. Maintaining a combat-ready nuclear force is critical to that national defense. So, for this base, and the fact that we are down to 3 bases, we have come down to a pretty low number of nuclear weapons since the height of the cold war. In accordance with the START treaty, this nuclear force structure creates stability for the world and has helped prevent a great power war since the end of World War II. If we continue to move from those numbers, it would take a lot of interaction and discussions on many levels. But it’s critical that we maintain what we have, right now, and that is why we see all of the new modernization programs that are coming on line. Our military and government leadership understands the critical importance of these weapons and these systems and why we need to continue to update them and maintain the capability that we have as a deterrence in the future.
Modernization of the ICBM
On the horizon Minot will transition from the Minuteman III ICBM to the GBSD (Ground Based Strategic Deterrent) weapon system which will require new facilities and infrastructure to support the weapon system, on base and across the missile complex. We are modernizing everything about the weapon (ICBM). The Minuteman III that we have right now has had a lot of modifications made to it, but it’s definitely had its’ time serving as a deterrent and now the time has come to modernize and upgrade.
We’ll be installing a modern new missile, along with that, all of the command and control consoles. The reason we need to modernize is that the Minuteman III system will face component age out and supportability challenges. We must modernize to assure continued ICBM readiness for our nation and allies.
Challenges in Securing Funding
Minot receives outstanding support from our military and government leaders. We compete well for funding to support our base and its missions. Some of the other projects underway or scheduled to start soon include an indoor firing range and new helicopter and tactical response force facility.
Our national leaders know how critical the nuclear missile and bomber missions are for the defense of our nation, so it isn’t difficult to secure funding or explain the relevance of these missions. Providing nuclear combat power is foundational to our national security. Just like Teddy Roosevelt said, speak softly, but carry a big stick. We are America’s big stick!
The Omaha Trophy
Awards recognize the hard work and precision that goes on in the ICBM mission day in and day out. It’s motivating and rewarding to see our hard work recognized. It’s a testament to the character, commitment and credibility of our Airmen. To know that the 91 MW was recognized by USSTRATCOM as the #1 ICBM wing means a lot. This mission is an around the clock alert mission; 24/7/365. The Rough Riders never get to take a break or a down day.
When there’s a holiday or directed down day, the whole wing doesn’t take a knee…the mission continues. The personnel who work here are highly motivated, and they do a great job. And it’s a mission that is executed with incredible precision and professionalism, without a lot of attention or fanfare. So, to see their quiet pursuit of excellence that provides incredible combat readiness and lethality awarded from the Combatant Command means a great deal.
It was exciting when so many of our civic leaders were here for the Trophy presentation. There’s a community aspect to this award. The close ties and partnership the Minot AFB has with the community is incredible and like none other I’ve been a part of.
Quality of the Airmen
As far as Airmen, year by year the caliber of the young Airmen is better.
I enjoy my routine interaction with the Airmen that maintain and protect our nuclear inventory.
It’s a tough mission…in a tough location. But, they have professionalism and grit that is second to none.
And retaining those Airmen?
Yes, we absolutely retain incredible talent in the Air Force, and based on the talent I see here in Minot, it’s not a challenge. Our Airmen feel a sense of purpose as they provide combat power in defense of our nation. They feel a sense of family surrounded by a team that’s looking out for each other. A team that strives to empower each other to lead, innovate and get after the mission. We do an excellent job of developing Airmen and caring for their families.
I get to interact on a regular basis with intelligent, motivated and hard-working young women and men that have joined the Air Force and our team here at Minot. I hear numerous reasons for why they join: some want to follow in a family member’s footsteps, others are looking for a fresh start, some for the education benefits...but the underlying reason I often hear for choosing the Air Force is how we take care of our Airmen and families. Our culture, our values and our leadership draw talented men and women into the Air Force.
What We’ve Accomplished
I try to use the word family a lot. We try to help out Airmen and address family issues.
We’ve launched the diversity and inclusion task force, and we focus on making everyone feel welcome.
In addition, we’ve made great strides improving life for Minot personnel and their families.
A new welcome center was created to improve onboarding for all Airmen and families joining Team Minot. It provides a one-stop shop for all base in-processing needs.
We have a new Housing Resident Advocate and a neighborhood council with representatives from each neighborhood to bring up and address issues.
A new ESC (Entertainment Social Center) that includes incredible video gaming with computers, Xbox, and Play Station consoles, a movie theater room, and a table game room; a virtual reality game area and a broadcast area to stream video game competitions. This facility is leading the Air Force for e-gaming capability.
We are filling more True North positions that provide chaplains and mental health providers, which has drastically increased resiliency and caring for Airmen.
There are lots of activities to connect spouses and families from the wing down to the squadrons with meet ups at The Turf, spouse all-calls covering helpful info on various topics, and events to increase connectiveness and boost morale.
We also stood up a Diversity and Inclusion working group that is raising awareness, educating, and building unity for our minority Airmen. This includes partnering with civic leaders to explore opportunities for meeting the unique product and service needs of minority Airmen.
We have maintained high levels of advocacy to capture and maintain Department of Defense support initiatives such as funding for the Minot Discovery Center, and adding a temperature -controlled dome over the fitness center sports fields- a long term effort that requires constant advocacy.
We brought online shopping and contactless delivery to the base commissary with a “Click to Go” program and tailored a guidance to maximize opportunities to enjoy North Dakota’s outdoor areas.
Col Menuey and his family are enjoying their time in Minot. “The bad stories you hear about Minot are from people who have never been here. It’s been inspiring to be a part of the 91st Missile Wing and Team Minot. To see the incredible pride and dedication in the Rough Riders, who are operating and supporting our ICBM force and providing combat power for the United States every single day. We have a phenomenal partnership with the 5th Bomb Wing and the community of Minot. This is a great base, with a great mission.”