MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
“Only the best come North” is one of the first things Airmen see as they arrive at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The base, located in the tundra of North Dakota, is home to two thirds of the nuclear triad – the intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber missions. However, many Airmen, after finding out they are getting stationed at Minot, are met with a lot of rumors and misconceptions about what life at Minot is like. Yes, the winters can be rough and living in a rural place can have its challenges, but the strong sense of community and Air Force family is what makes an assignment at Minot great.
To combat the stigmas surrounding an assignment to Minot, the 91st Security Forces Group has developed an onboarding program to help Airmen feel excited about their assignments, squash rumors and get them eager to be a part of the vital ICBM mission.
The onboarding effort, under a broader 91 SFG Defender Culture initiative with nine lines of effort, started last year and includes Airmen from all three operational squadrons in the security forces group. The effort aims to help incoming Airmen feel welcome, important and connected after their assignment notification and before they arrive at Minot.
“Up to last year, we understood our onboarding program to be “meh, good” after polling new arrivals,” said Col. Thomas Segars, 91st Security Forces Group commander. “That was a rather disappointing realization for us, especially when faced with the reality that, in general, a large number of Airmen just aren’t excited about coming to Minot. We decided we want to fully embrace the mantra “Only the Best Come North,” and so we’re on a quest to transform our “good” program into a “great” program; our Airmen deserve nothing less.”
MSgt Kyle Tow, 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron operations and training superintendent and one of the team leads, has been a part of the initiative since its inception.
“All three squadrons are working toward one strategic goal – making sure that Airmen feel like they’re important,” said Tow. “We want Airmen to feel like they have something to look forward to and feel that they’re essential to the mission.”
In the wake of COVID, Col. Segars and Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Sullivan, 91st Security Forces Group Chief Enlisted Manager, began setting up Zoom calls three times per month - one session per month for all security forces technical school graduates coming to 91 SFG, and two sessions for all career Airmen and their families to dial in and see what 91 SFG and Team Minot is all about.
“We send out welcome emails to all of the incoming Airmen once we receive their information,” said Staff Sgt. Oneasha Poole, 891st Missile Security Forces Squadron unit program manager and one of the team leads. “We make sure they have their sponsor’s information and know who to reach out to if they have any questions.”
After making contact with the incoming Airmen virtually, the onboarding teams ensure that once the member arrives on station, they are met at the airport or at billeting, and properly welcomed to the community. They also ensure the Airmen have food and the basic necessities while they are in ROM.
“I am passionate about creating a culture that cultivates an environment where every Airman is properly welcomed to the unit,” said Technical Sgt. Steven Culver, 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron flight sergeant and a team lead for the program. “From notification of their assignment to the 91 SFG to their arrival on station, we have to make it a point to make the transition as smooth as possible. In my career, I have had good and bad experiences with sponsors, so I understand the importance of having a proper welcome to a unit.”
The positive results of the onboarding program are already becoming evident. Although morale is hard to measure, retention rates have increased since the program was implemented.
“You can tell that the Airmen are a lot more open,” said Tow. “Just looking at retention rates you can tell that positive change is happening. Walking about and talking to the Airmen, most of them are really happy with their squadrons and are enjoying being at Minot.”
The onboarding team leads and leadership are excited about the progress they are making, and are continually looking to make improvements to the program to help Airmen make Minot their home.
“Where a large number of military organizations traditionally have mission as their first priority, our first priority in the 91 SFG is people,” said Sullivan. “We firmly believe the mission will not get done if our organizational leaders are not taking care of their people.”