MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Gary I. Johnson, of Minot, helped build the runway at Minot Air Force base more than 50 years ago.
On Wednesday, Johnson had the opportunity to see the reconstruction work on the center section of the base runway now under way, during a visit to the site led by David Pankratz, construction control inspector with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Minot base, and Airman 1st Class Naomi Braaten, with the 5th Operations Support Squadron's Airfield Management.
Johnson celebrated his 50th anniversary as a mechanic at Pietsch Aircraft Restoration & Repair in Minot earlier this year.
Gary I. Johnson, right, of Minot, and David Pankratz, construction control inspector for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Minot Air Force Base, talk Wednesday about when Johnson worked on building the runway in the late 1950s and the current runway reconstruction project at Minot Air Force Base.
Employees of Sundt Construction, a Tempe, Ariz. firm, work on finishing the concrete for the center section of the runway reconstruction project at Minot Air Force Base Wednesday.
Gary I. Johnson, right, of Minot, tells some of the workers involved in the current reconstruction of the center section of the Minot Air Force Base runway about building the runway more than 50 years ago.
Before going to the Army, he worked construction at Minot Air Force Base, operating the concrete equipment. He worked on the runway for Peter Kiewit & Sons Construction, the prime contractor.
Johnson started at the base in 1957 and spent three summers there on that work. He said they worked every day seven days a week, weather permitting.
He then worked on runways at Glasgow AFB in Montana and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota and later on the installation of the Minuteman missiles in the Ellsworth area.
At Minot AFB, Johnson remembers running a concrete spreader, and told those working on the current runway project that when he helped build the runway he was over about "every inch" of it. "We covered the whole thing," he said.
Sundt Construction Inc., an Arizona firm, was awarded the more than $32 million contract for the runway repairs and improvement for the center section of the runway. It is the last section of the three-phase runway project to be completed. Reconstruction of the east and west ends were completed in the previous two years.
The construction project is on schedule and currently, paving both the concrete and asphalt is being done, said 1st Lt. Jason Hernandez, officer in charge of Project Execution with the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at the Minot base.
The runway was closed down to aircraft April 1. Several B-52s are temporarily operating out of Ellsworth AFB while others are on a deployment at Andersen AFB in Guam. Some B-52s and aircrews have remained at the Minot base in a ready status in case they are needed, according to base officials. All the planes will return to the base when the runway project is completed in October.
Johnson said his visit to the base runway project brought back many memories. "It was enjoyable and the personnel were all great," he said.