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IN THE MAIL: City welcomes 319th's new commander

GRAND FORKS -- It is our privilege to extend a warm welcome to Col. John Michel and his family. As Michel assumes command of the 319th Air Refueling Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base, he may be assured that our community will continue its longst...

GRAND FORKS -- It is our privilege to extend a warm welcome to Col. John Michel and his family.

As Michel assumes command of the 319th Air Refueling Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base, he may be assured that our community will continue its longstanding tradition of providing tremendous support and appreciation for our Air Force friends and neighbors.

During the recent change of command ceremony, we also had the chance to extend our appreciation and best wishes to Col. Diane Hull as she departed for her new assignment at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. She made outstanding contributions to the base during her time here, and we know that she will be greatly missed by those who served under her command.

Michel has arrived at a critical time for "our" base. The anticipation of the arrival of the next generation of tankers and unmanned aerial vehicles presents us with new and exciting opportunities, as do the joint efforts of the Department of Homeland Security Air Branch and UND Aerospace.

We are extremely proud of the ongoing hard work and success of the tanker mission. The contribution of the Warriors of the North to our nation's global efforts is indisputable and unrivaled. They serve our country with unmatched dedication and professionalism.

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Obviously, we are determined to continue the fight to retain this current mission with the next generation of Air Force tankers.

Combining efforts toward this common goal are our congressional delegation, Gov. John Hoeven's Office, the Grand Forks City Council, the Council on Military Relations, UND and many other dedicated individuals and groups.

With the leadership we experienced in past commanders and fully anticipate from Michel, we are confident that there is an exciting and strong future for Grand Forks Air Force Base. It is already apparent to us that Michel will be a driving force who will continue to build on the strong history of the 319th Air Refueling Wing and effect a smooth transition between new and continuing missions.

Both his record and his presence elicit confidence.

Together, we will continue to keep our friends -- the invaluable men, women and children of the 319th -- as neighbors. We will keep fighting for you. Thank you for fighting for us.

Michael Brown

Hal Gershman

John Marshall

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Brown is mayor of Grand Forks, Gershman is president of the Grand Forks City Council and Marshall is chairman of the Grand Forks Council on Military Relations.

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