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James Bradshaw lauded for efforts at Grand Forks Air Force Base

Founder of Strata Corp. is among first 10 recipients of the national Defense Communities Champion Award.

James Bradshaw, left, accepts the Defense Communities Champion Award from Bob Ross, president of the Association of Defense Communities, at the ADC annual meeting in March in Washington, D.C.
ADC photo by Will Noonan
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GRAND FORKS — Without James Bradshaw's lifelong commitment to Grand Forks Air Force Base, this community may not still have the strategic military installation, some local leaders say.

The Association of Defense Communities has recognized that commitment by awarding Bradshaw the Defense Communities Champion Award. The award was presented for the first time at the association’s annual meeting last month in Washington, D.C.

Ten recipients, representing communities across the nation, were selected for the honor, which recognizes those who have excelled at creating military-community collaborations that support mission readiness and quality of life for service members, military families and veterans.

Grand Forks County is a member of the Association of Defense Communities.

“The inaugural group of Defense Community Champions demonstrates what it takes to serve a community’s military mission, military families and veterans,” said ADC President Bob Ross. “Our national security successes and community connections rely on individuals like James who know how to develop relationships and who will help their communities and installations support our military families.”


Todd Feland, Grand Forks city administrator, said Bradshaw exemplifies what the award represents, because of Bradshaw's “unconditional love for our country, and for our Grand Forks Air Force Base and the airmen. He has really given unconditionally of his time, his talent and his treasure.”

Among many contributions, Bradshaw has served for years on the Grand Forks Regional Base Realignment Impact Committee, or BRIC. Over the years, when local representatives attended BRIC meetings at the Pentagon and other meetings, “Jim always said, ‘Keep us in the fight,’ ” emphasizing the need to keep GFAFB open to maintain national security, said Feland.

“I think because of that, we still have a Grand Forks Air Force Base here ..." Feland said, adding that "the value of Grand Forks Air Force Base looking into the future is going to become greater and greater, and that’s thanks to the fight of Jim — and not only fighting, but fighting for what is right. (Bradshaw) always felt that Grand Forks Air Force Base was a strategic asset to defending our liberty, our freedom, and not to be short-sighted in making decisions. He really elevated that conversation.”

Because of his dedication to GFAFB, his community and his country, “Jim Bradshaw symbolizes what people mean when they say ‘servant leader,’ ” Feland said.

Col. Tim Curry, wing commander at GFAFB, said the Grand Forks community has fostered the growth of the base “and cared for its airmen for 65 proud years, and Jim Bradshaw has dedicated his life to taking care of our airmen and their families. For that, I speak for the long line of wing commanders when I say, we will always be grateful.”

Behind-the-scenes support

Bradshaw has been “a quiet, behind-the-scenes supporter of Grand Forks Air Force Base for five decades,” Tom Ford, Grand Forks County’s director of administration, said in a nomination document. “He is one who never looks for the spotlight.”

“His wisdom and passion over his many decades of supporting GFAFB has been a hallmark and driving force in the relationship between the community and the base,” Ford said.

Bradshaw’s support of GFAFB is exemplified through his service on the BRIC and other ways, said Ford, “whether it was supporting major infrastructure projects or serving as an ambassador to (the base), opening up his home for airmen over the holidays if they didn’t have a place to go.


“He considers supporting the air base his duty as a citizen of the U.S.,” Ford said. For years he has “selflessly supported the commanders, the airman, the families, supporting and advocating for new missions. However he’s been needed, he has stepped up, over and over, to support the air base.”

Attending the Association of Defense Communities annual meeting, at which James Bradshaw received the Defense Communities Champion Award, were (from left): Lt. Gen. Bill Rew, George Schlossberg, Col. Timothy Curry, Tom Swoyer, James Bradshaw, Mayor Brandon Bochenski, City Administrator Todd Feland, Lt. Gen. Rusty Findley, and Grand Forks Chamber CEO Barry Wilfahrt.
Photo courtesy of Todd Feland

Bruce Gjovig, who serves as U.S. Air Force civic leader, said Bradshaw “deserves national recognition” as one of the first recipients of the Defense Community Champion Award.

“He is an exemplary community leader who has had a significant impact on our community through his leadership in business, Air Force Base retention, and selfless community service. He has an amazing record of making a difference to our community as a servant leader …”

Early commitment

As a young man, Bradshaw wanted to serve in the military, but, while he was attending UND, his father died unexpectedly. His family was counting on him to help run the family business, Strata Corp., a construction and construction materials company, Ford said. He stayed home and began a career in business leadership that spans 58 years.

Some of his close friends did serve in the military in Vietnam; two were killed in action.

“Their names were Gary and Mel,” Bradshaw said in an ADC profile. “I know what they’d have told me — it wouldn’t have been really good English, either — it would be to get going and do something, don’t sit there like a witness.”

That led to Bradshaw becoming active in “serving in any way he can” the service members and their families at GFAFB, Ford said.

Bradshaw has served as an honorary wing commander and honorary squadron commander and is one of a small cadre of community ambassadors at GFAFB. In 2012, he became the first and only Grand Forks citizen to be named honorary chief master sergeant.


Reports are compiled weekly throughout the hunting season and generally available Thursday afternoons of each week.

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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