#7: Historic Day: Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Minot AFB

Eloise Ogden/MDN Front, from the left, Vice President Mike Pence, with Gov. Doug Burgum and Col. Matthew Brooks, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, is shown after leaving Air Force Two on Oct. 27, at Minot Air Force Base. In back, from the far left, are Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force, and Sen. John Hoeven.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – Vice President Mike Pence promised airmen at Minot Air Force Base the Trump administration will rebuild the nation’s military.

Speaking to about 200 airmen in a B-52 hangar at the base on Oct. 27, Pence told the group it’s a great honor for him to serve as vice president to a president who cares so deeply about the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, their families, and the veterans. “I believe that history will record that President Donald Trump is the best friend the Armed Forces of the United States will ever have,” Pence said.

Pence made a promise to the group of airmen: “Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re going to rebuild our military, we’re going to restore the arsenal of democracy, and we will once again, as a nation, give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard the resources and the training you need and deserve to accomplish your mission and come home safe. That’s my promise to every one of you and your families.” His promise drew loud applause from the airmen.

The Minot base is the only Department of Defense dual-wing, nuclear capable installation. The bomb wing has two squadrons, the 69th and 23rd bomb squadrons, with B-52 bombers. The 91st Missile Wing has Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground facilities in several counties.

Pence told the group that the week earlier, American and allied forces liberated Raqqa, a city in Syria. “Many of you were a part of that historic victory. America is defeating ISIS because the brave men and women of Minot took the fight to ISIS in the air, and on the ground, and I came to say thanks to the team here at Minot for a job well done.” He said the Minot bomb wing’s B-52s were responsible “for over 700 danger-close strikes to support the coalition for freedom in the region.”

Col. Matthew Brooks, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, Col. Colin Connor, commander of the 91st Missile Wing, Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer and others joined the vice president for his visit to the base. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was unable to attend.

Pence, flying in on his plane, Air Force Two, was accompanied by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. Security was high at the base for such a historic visit.

Initially, it was believed Pence was the first vice president to visit the Minot base. Later, further research revealed Vice President Spiro T. Agnew visited Minot for a speech in September 1970 while in office. Agnew didn’t speak to airmen at the base as Pence did. He went there to play tennis with then commander of the 810th Strategic Air Division Bryce Harlow.

Pence’s visit in October came a few days before President Trump would travel to the Korean Peninsula. While the president has made it clear the U.S. has, in his words, “great strength and patience,” Pence said all options are on the table.

“Anyone who would threaten our nation should know that America always seeks peace, but if we are forced to defend ourselves or our allies, we will do so with military power that is effective and overwhelming.”

He said those gathered at Minot AFB would play a critical role, again.

“Now more than ever, your Commander-in-Chief is depending on you to be ready, stay sharp, mind your mission, and your airmen, and be that credible deterrent that has assured the security of the American people for generations.” He said the “brave men and women of Minot Air Force Base may yet be called upon to be the instruments of American power. And if that day comes, we know you will be prepared.”

He thanked the men and women at Minot AFB for their service and their vigilance. “May God bless you. May God bless your families and your mission and may God continue to bless the United States of America,” said Pence.

B-52s bring the fight to the enemies: 1st time in 12 years B-52 deploy to Middle East for combat operations

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – For the first time in 12 years, B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base deployed to the Middle East for combat operations in 2017.

The Air Force Global Strike Command B-52 bombers and more than 400 airmen from the Minot base deployed early in 2017 in support of U.S. Central Command’s Operation Inherent Resolve in the Middle East. The group included airmen from Minot AFB’s 5th Bomb Wing’s 23rd Bomb Squadron and other base units.

The operation is U.S. Central Command’s combined joint task force operation to eliminate ISIS terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Later in 2017 the 23rd’s personnel and bombers along with personnel from other units returned to the Minot base, swapping places in the Middle East with the base’s other bomb squadron, the 69th. This group of personnel and bombers would remain in the Middle East until the April 2018 timeframe. That would wrap up the B-52s being in the theater and they switched out with B-1 bombers, Col. Sloan Hollis, vice commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, told members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee.

Hollis said the 23rd’s personnel and bombers “flew over 500 sorties.”

“They dropped well over 4,000 bombs, several thousands of targets engaged – did a lot of good work in the fight against ISIS (in) Iraq and Syria. We’re happy to have them back,” he said.

“(It was) one of the largest air campaigns that has gone on since Vietnam is what they said,” he added.

Many people from Minot AFB are deployed to Southwest Asia and other places all over the world and those deployments are constantly changing, said Lt. Col. Jamie Humphries, chief of Public Affairs at Minot AFB.