MINOT AIR FORCE BASE The 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, with support from the 5th Bomb Wing, has been working to protect its 150 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles from melting snow and flood waters. The work has been going on since March 11.
According to Lt. Col. Robert A. Fabian, commander of the 91st Maintenance Operations Squadron, a core team of flood control experts from the 91st Maintenance Group, along with airmen from the 91st Operations Group, 91st Security Forces Group and the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron, have put in more than 13,600 work-hours to make sure the wing's missile fleet is safe.
Every day, survey teams in trucks on the ground and, as the thaw continued, in helicopters in the air, check for changes at the various sites that could indicate potential flooding.
Airmen and civilians from the 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron, the 91st Maintenance Operations Squadron and the 91st Security Forces Group work at a launch facility north of Minot Air Force Base, shown in this April 13 Air Force photo.
Airmen from the 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron pose for this Air Force photo taken March 17 at a launch facility southwest of Minot in the Minot missile field.
At the same time pump, sandbag and digging teams drive out in response to priorities set by the central Flood Control Command Post on base to remove snow, clear drainage ditches, pump pools of water off the sites and build sandbag berms to keep rising water away from the missiles. These teams run rotating 12-plus hour shifts so that work in the field never stops.
A typical survey or digging team carries shovels, ice picks, a water pump and hoses, while a dedicated pump team adds two more water pumps to their load. It's cold, hard manual labor, but it is also essential to keeping the missiles dry.
Some digging teams also bring Bobcats to move heavy snow drifts and the 5th Civil Engineers bring the really heavy equipment when needed.
The sandbag teams drive flatbed trucks carrying eight pallets of sandbags, each containing 40 to 50 sandbags per pallet. They work with the digging teams to seal off launch facilities when the water rises faster than it can drain off the site.
"Together, the airmen of both wings maintainers, operators, pilots, security forces, chefs, facility mangers and civil engineers are still hard at work ensuring the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear deterrent, no matter what the weather, or anyone else for that matter, can throw at them," said Fabian.