Grand Forks Air Force Base provided its yearly briefing to the City Council and County Commission in a joint meeting Tuesday.
Representing the Air Force were Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Lt. Gen. Bill Rew and Lt. Gen. Vern M. “Rusty” Findley. Also in attendance was George Schlossberg, an attorney with expertise in military installations and legal council for the base.
The meeting began with remarks from Col. Timothy Curry, who emphasized the three main priorities of the base: the airmen, the mission and the future.
“Where are we going in the future?” Curry said. “From an airmen standpoint, we partnered with the city, the county and really the entire state. We have great leadership from the senators we have, to the governor and right down to our mayor and the county and the great partnerships that we have locally to make our airmen feel valued, welcome and know that their work is purposeful.”
He also spoke about a few things pertaining to the meeting's presentation, namely one of the key points – the downsizing of the unmanned Global Hawk fleet.
“In terms of the mission, there have been some changes, and there’s goodness in that,” Curry said.
Findley began the presentation, saying “we enjoy this particular visit every year once a year when we come in here to brief the joint City Council and commission, and we enjoy giving this update even more so this year because there’s a lot of good things that happened despite the pandemic. But we’re mainly going to talk about the future."
Findley then touched on what Curry mentioned earlier – the phasing out of the Global Hawk Block 20s. The Block 20s will be repurposed locally at Grand Sky, where they will be used to conduct hypersonic testing over the Pacific Ocean, although any other purposes for their recycling is not yet known. Findley said he thinks the same will eventually happen with the Block 30s.
“The Block 20s are going away, and the Block 30s will probably follow,” Findley said. “What to do with them? That’s a big question that’s on the slate that we need to deal with. The 20s are coming across the ramp. They’re already there. We’re going to have a ceremony (Wednesday) and the (Department of Defense) agency, the test resource management group is going to take control of those. That’s good news, OK? Those are still going to be doing DOD business and flying out of Grand Sky. It’s good news for the community. It’s good news for Grand Forks. If they’ve got to go away, then it’s great they’re staying here and being repurposed.”
“The future” was the other main theme of the meeting. Findley said one of the most important things Grand Forks Air Force Base needs to do is meet in person with people from now on – be it going to visit senior leadership at the Pentagon as soon as possible, or meeting with Canadian leaders.
“For the last year and a half, we’ve been doing a lot of, as I call it, ‘Hollywood Squares’ through Zoom and the like,” Findley said. “People are starting to take face-to-face meetings again, thankfully, and they’re so much more productive than Zoom. Zoom’s been a good filler under the circumstances, but there is so much more to be gained by personal interaction in significant meetings like this.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Findley remarked about how excited he and his peers are to get back to work with advocating for the base and its interests.
“We’re ready, willing and able to continue to tout all the great benefits of Grand Forks Air Force Base,” Findley said. “I will tell you the four of us are passionate about it. This place has worn away a big place in our hearts. We’re not just passionate about it because of that – we’re passionate about it because there’s so much advantage that needs to be taken up for national security here at this base.”