MINOT AIR FORCE BASE The grand opening of the new shoppette at Minot Air Force Base was a big event because it combined facilities at an easy location to access. The new shoppette includes a gas station and car wash.
Col. Monte Harner, commander of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at the Minot base, said that previously the shoppette was in the former base commissary and the gas station was in another area of the base. Now the new shoppette, an Army & Air Force Exchange Service facility, is along the main road into the base.
Harner gave an update about construction at Minot Air Force Base at a meeting earlier this year of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce's Military Affairs Committee.
Submitted Photo --
Construction of the new Base Exchange at Minot Air Force Base nears completion, shown in this photo taken Monday by Senior Airman Joe Rivera. At the left is the base Commissary.
The Base Exchange, Minot AFB's equivalent to a civilian department store, is another new Army & Air Force Exchange Service facility being built at the Minot base.
An 86,000-square-foot facility, the new Base Exchange, better known as the BX, costs about $12 million and is scheduled to open this summer.
The BX is next to the base commissary (equivalent to a civilian grocery store) and is located toward the west side of the base and both are just off the main road. A new dormitory being built on base is a short distance away from the BX and commissary.
The new dormitory is the start of a major dormitory project for the base. These new dormitories are what are called "quad dorms," Harner said.
"The current dorms are what they call two-plus-two - each airman has a private room but two airmen share a private bath. They're also fairly small rooms," Harner said.
"Under the new Air Force standard, this quad concept, there's four private rooms - each with a private bath. They have a small lounge area, a small kitchenette and their own washer and dryer. It's technically a mini-apartment for four airmen," Harner said.
"The Air Force prefers to have this common space for quality of life," he said. He said the quad concept helps keep airmen from staying in their room all weekend long and allows them to interact with others.
The new dorm, a 144-room one, is the first of several dorms to be built.
"This is one of six that we will be getting and it will replace all our existing dorms," Harner said. Right now, the base has 17 dorms.
Money for new dorm
Last month North Dakota's congressional delegation announced that a $28.3 million, 168-room dormitory will be built at the Minot base with federal stimulus money.
The money is from the Department of Defense as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
It is projected the bids for the 168-room dorm will open in August with the contract award made in September, said 2nd Lt. Kidron Vestal, deputy chief of Public Affairs at the Minot base. She said this dorm will be built to the north-northeast of the dorm currently under construction.
The new dorms will be built in phases along with the demolition of the smaller existing ones.
A new dining hall is part of the new dorm plan.
The existing dorms are located in various areas on the base. "Under the new plan we're going to go to a more campus environment with the dining hall located right in the center," Harner said. This way, he said, it will be extremely convenient for airmen, especially those who don't have vehicles, who now will be within close walking distance to the new BX and the commissary.
Bomb wing, missile wing
Harner said the two wings at the Minot base 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing are under a different command so the base has the benefit of two military construction programs. The bomb wing is part of Air Combat Command and the missile wing is part of Air Force Space Command.
The top three priority projects for each wing are:
91st Missile Wing (1) 91st Operations Group Building, ICBM Operations (2) Proof-Load Facility and (3) Indoor Firing Range.
5th Bomb Wing (1) Control Facility (2) Second Dormitory and (3) Modification to Nose Dock for B-52 Maintenance.
The 91st Operations Group Building, ICBM Operations project, originally planned for 2011, has been accelerated into 2010, Harner said.
"We actually got the design and construction, which is the design funds," Harner said. He said that means they have the authority this year to start the design. It is a $10 million facility and will be located just northwest of the present 91st Missile Wing headquarters building.
The proof-load facility is on the prioritized list for 2011. This facility is for the transporter erector vehicles which carry the missiles and warheads so they can do testing indoors instead of outdoors as they do now.
The indoor firing range, third on the missile wing's priority list, would be constructed in the current BX which formerly was a commissary warehouse. Currently, the firing range is outside. "This will provide a 29-lane indoor facility with all-weather, yearround capability," he said.
Harner said another advantage of having an indoor firing range is for night firing a requirement of security forces. "As you know, in the summer when it doesn't get dark until 11 o'clock at night, it reduces the amount of time you can do your night firing so the indoor facility answers that," he said.
A new control facility is the bomb wing's No. 1 priority project. The current tower has some maintenance issues, Harner said.
The new control facility will be located where the current base operations is. The plan is to co-locate with base operations and the weather flight with the control tower. A $19 million facility, it is in the plans for 2013.
The bomb wing's second priority project is a second dormitory. However, the bomb wing's "wish list" was answered earlier than expected when the 168-room dorm was funded last month with stimulus money.
A modification to one of the nose docks for aircraft maintenance on B-52s is the No. 3 project on the bomb wing's priority list.
"The problem right now is the tail has to stick out in the back because the hangars aren't large enough to completely enclose the plane," Harner said. The modification, which costs about $25 million, greatly improves maintenance and the temperatures when working on a plane. Even when the doors are closed to the hangars, he said the sealing around the tail of the plane never is real tight so it never gets real warm in the building. He said having hangars which completely enclose a plane is critical to this base's operations.
2nd B-52 squadron
The base is getting prepared for a second B-52 squadron the 69th Bomb Squadron to join the existing 23rd Bomb Squadron on base.
Harner said they'll do renovation work in the Pride Building for the 69th. The 23rd Bomb Squadron is located there.
"Right now we're projecting to get two additional docks two new hangars," he said.
He said the plan includes renovation of the existing aircraft maintenance unit and a new building to house an additional aircraft maintenance unit, and several munitions storage facilities to store the trailers and the additional munitions.
The new B-52 squadron will increase the number of B-52s at the base from 17 to 26 and bring up to 1,000 additional personnel to the base plus family members.
Because of the increased population, Harner said they're already planning ahead to accommodate them in dormitories and in family housing.
Based on figures in January of just under 500 personnel projected for the new squadron, Harner said an estimate of 120 new homes and 72 more dormitory spaces are needed.
The dormitory currently being built has 144-rooms and the second dormitory, the one funded last month, was planned for 168 rooms to provide more dormitory spaces because of the second squadron of B-52 coming to the base.
The housing at North Dakota's Air Force bases is scheduled to be turned over to private contractors who will be preparing the proposals this year.
A Pentagon plan, the private contractors would effectively be given ownership of the housing, collect rent from military personnel living in the housing and would sign a 50-year contract saying they will maintain it.
"The firm that wins the privatization contract that will be one of his tasks to determine location and construction of these 120 additional homes," Harner said.
The firm winning the privatization contract at the base will manage the occupancy and also do the maintenance and upkeep. The Air Force will retain the land.
Firms will prepare their privatization contract proposals this year. Spring 2010 is the current date scheduled to transfer the homes to the winning firm.