Yonkers impressed by visit to Grand Forks Air Force Base
A high-ranking Air Force official said he came away impressed after visiting Grand Forks Air Force Base for the first time this week. Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, spent time...
A high-ranking Air Force official said he came away impressed after visiting Grand Forks Air Force Base for the first time this week.
Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, spent time touring the base and meeting with base leaders on Wednesday and today.
"My perspective coming in was that I would be arriving at a base that would look like a vintage 1950-1960 base," Yonkers said. "I was pleasantly surprised that it looks almost like downtown America anywhere you go. I am delighted at how the base has been master planned and the shape of the infrastructure and the facilities. From an installations point of view, things are really in good shape in Grand Forks, more than any base I've been on."
Yonkers also met with the local Base Realignment Impact Committee, which made a case for the base being considered for a future Air Force tanker mission and the Air Force's Distributed Common Ground System of analysts who gather and disseminate intelligence from remotely-piloted aircraft such as the Predators and Global Hawks assigned to the base. The BRIC committee also talked about a UND initiative that could lead to greater energy efficiency at the base.
"It went very well," said John Schmisek, a member of the BRIC committee and a Grand Forks County Commissioner, of the meeting with Yonkers.
Yonkers said the criteria for selecting potential new homes for the KC-46A next generation tanker is expected to be in place in the next three to four months and a short list of approximately five to six preferred bases would be selected in about a year.
He said it is expected that one base will be initially selected as an operational base for the KC-46, with another base selected for training, with more bases expected to be added at a later date. Schmisek said it could be 2016 or 2017 by the time a KC-46 unit is activated.
"Everyone would like to have that mission," Yonkers said. "We won't be able to put it on every base that would like to have it. We want to make sure that we look at every base equally and that we look for the optimal location."
Yonkers declined to handicap Grand Forks Air Force Base's chances of landing a KC-46 mission, but he said that having a previous tanker mission and existing infrastructure in place "puts it in a competitive position." Schmisek said adding a tanker mission would help solidify the base's long-term future, especially with future base closings possible.
"Long-term, the tankers are a key element," he said. "There is always that concern about the future. If a (Base Realignment And Closure) comes around, you always get nervous."
Yonkers said it would be premature to comment on the base's chances of landing a Distributed Common Ground System, adding the only two in use are located at Beale Air Force Base in California and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and a decision has not been made if a third such facility is needed. But Yonkers did say that the Distributed Common Ground System appears to fit with the base's Predator and Global Hawk mission.
Yonkers is also visiting Minot Air Force Base and Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota during a tour of northern tier bases.
Schuster reports on business. Reach him at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107, or email email@example.com . Follow Schuster on Twitter at @RyanSchuster and check out his business blog at thebuzz.areavoices.com.