MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, ND --
I was given the opportunity to “tag along” on a recent tour. The tour guide? A young Airman named Evan on his first assignment. I met the gentlemen taking the tour; he was a member of the 91st Missile Wing from 1967. Tom Grabowski was returning to Minot Air Force Base for the first time since his almost four years here as a member of the 740th Missile Squadron, also known as the Vulgar Vultures…then and now.
Of course, a base can change a lot in 54 years and certainly there was tremendous enjoyment watching and listening as Mr. Grabowski pointed out new buildings and vacant areas where buildings used to be. The tone of the tour was set immediately upon entering the gates when Tom laughed and said, look at all of those trees. “When I arrived here in 1967, there were no trees.”
There are 3 points I would like to make at this point in my article:
This was the first tour of the base given since HPCON Charlie was declared last summer.
All of the Air Force personnel that Tom Grabowski met thanked him for his service and made it very obvious that this was his moment, a reward for the four years he spent serving his country on a very remote base in Minot, N.D.
Mr. Grabowski felt dignitary status was afforded him and said several times “I wasn’t really expecting all of this. I just wanted to see Minot AFB again as long as I was this close.”
Our first stop after the visitor’s center was the 91st Missile Wing headquarters where Col. Christopher Menuey and members of his staff greeted Mr. Grabowski with smiles and handshakes. From there, we proceeded to the office of the Commander of the 740th, the Vulgar Vultures, Lt Col. Eric Ward. It was at this point when the reality of how Minot Air Force Base, and in particular, the 91st Missile Wing, dealt with the nearly 12-month pandemic. Lt Col. Ward, with the help of his staff, outlined how they kept the 91st Missile Wing operating without missing a beat during the COVID 19 pandemic. Pretty much all operating procedures had to be altered. When Tom Grabowski used to pull alert, it was at mainly at one facility and only for 24 hours. During the pandemic, crews were moved around to different facilities, and that practice is still in place today. During the pandemic, shifts were scheduled based on healthy crew members that were available. There are no “down days” in the 91st Missile Wing. It is a 24/7 job always, and there were no operating procedures written for COVID 19. It certainly gave me, and later it was echoed by Mr. Grabowski, an even deeper appreciation for the men and women on Minot AFB who every day go above and beyond to guarantee our security, and thus our freedom.
I also know that in an interview with Col. Michael Walters, Commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, he pointed out many of the same points for the B-52 Squadrons. They also did not skip a beat. There were no “we can’t fly today because…” excuses.
We are certainly not out of the COVID 19 pandemic, and yes, there are still a lot of procedures in place to address this global emergency, but I believe it is now time to step back and say, “Thank You! You did a GREAT JOB!” to the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing for stepping up, once more, in defense of our country.
On our tour we were able to stop at the corner where Tom Grabowski lived during his Minot AFB tenure. The old house he lived in was gone, and in its place a newer home. Many photos were taken and as Tom got back into the car he said “You know, it still feels like home.”
So, to Tom, and all the others who serve on Minot AFB we say, “Thank you, again. And even through the challenges of COVID 19, you did a great job.”