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Senators stress importance of nuclear missions

Submitted Photo Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, center, is flanked by Sen. John Hoeven, right, and Sen. Kevin Cramer, left, when they posed for a photo with 91st Missile Wing security forces. Esper, Hoeven and Cramer visited the base on Wednesday. It was Esper’s first visit to the base as secretary of defense. Photo from Sen. John Hoeven’s Office.

Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer joined U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on his visit to Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday.

It was Esper’s first visit to the base since becoming secretary of defense last summer. While at the base they visited 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing facilities.

Esper also addressed airmen during the visit.

“We appreciate Secretary Esper’s willingness to come meet with our servicemembers and see their good work firsthand, not only because we’re so proud of their service, but also because of how critical it is to the security of our nation,” said Hoeven in a news release. “That understanding will be important as we continue working with the defense secretary to keep our nuclear modernization programs on schedule. Our adversaries are always working to overcome our capabilities, and by making these upgrades, we can ensure our nuclear deterrent is credible for decades to come. That’s a key investment in our ongoing security and gives our servicemembers the support they need to be successful.”

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.

Submitted Photo Leah Esper, right, wife of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, visits with A military spouse during her visit to Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday. Photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Kimmell.

Cramer said, in a news release, “The world is a safer place because of the work being done by the military members in North Dakota every day. It is important we provide them with the tools they need and put them in a position to succeed, both now and in the future.”

During the visit the senators stressed to Esper the importance of advancing the modernization of the country’s nuclear forces and upgrades including for the B-52s, cruise missiles and Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Esper was also urged to keep the schedule on track for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the replacement for the Minuteman III ICBMs.

Minot AFB along with other ICBM bases will also be getting new MH-139A helicopters to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N Hueys. “I appreciate the progress we are making and look forward to their successful replacements,” Cramer said.

Cramer is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Esper’s wife, Leah, joined her husband on his trip to Minot AFB where she met with military spouses and airmen.

Esper, the 27th secretary of defense, is among few secretaries of defense to ever visit the Minot base. Robert Gates made history when he was the first secretary of defense to visit the base in 2008. Other secretaries of defense who have visited the base are Chuck Hagel in 2014, Ashton Carter in 2016 and James Mattis in September 2017.

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