Ceremony celebrates new control tower, Base Operations Facility

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Col. Alex Mezynski, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, flanked by North Dakota’s congressional delegation and other base and local dignitaries cut the ribbon Friday to celebrate the completion of the base’s new air traffic control tower and Base Operations Facility, a $16.3 million project.

The new control tower, a 9-story facility, is the newest control tower for the Department of Defense. It replaces a control tower that opened in 1966.

The Base Operations Facility replaces a facility that was built in 1957.

Mezynski said the events Friday are the culmination of years of planning and a lot of hard work. He said the original Base Operations building was built in 1957 and was situated just behind where the current building is located. He said attached to that was a control tower that was replaced in 1966 by another control tower located across the runway. For four decades these facilities served the Minot Air Force Base community well, he said.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation was on hand for the ceremony.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., told the group that the former control tower was famous for swaying in the wind. He said it was more than time to replace it.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee and Military Construction Subcommittee, Hoeven was involved in the funding securement for the control tower as part of the appropriations legislation approved by Congress in the spring of 2011.

As changes are being made, he said, “It is very important that Minot AFB with its dual nuclear mission of B-52s and missiles remain a vital, robust, well funded, well-supported part of our military now and for generations to come. I know on behalf of our delegation we’re all committed to it.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it was pointed out to her before the ceremony that Minot AFB is “the second most powerful place on earth.” But, she said, “you cannot be the best to be if we don’t equip you” with the tools they need to be successful.

Besides Hoeven, she said former senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan were serving when the funding securement for the two projects was being done.

She said the congressional members tell the story every chance that they can get about the great work that is being done at Minot AFB and how important it is to the security of this country and keeping the peace in the world.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told the audience that included numerous military members that all three of North Dakota’s congressional delegation “stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder in Washington, sometimes against some odds. There are some who think modernizing this place shouldn’t be such a high price.” Or, he said, some think the mission is outdated, and pointed out that is far from true.

Cramer presented to Mezynski a flag that was flown over the Capitol.

During a tour of the Base Operations Facility, Staff Sgt. Zachary Kinsey, with the 5th Operations Support Squadron’s weather unit, said weather and base operations can fully integrate in the new facility.

Minot AFB officials provided some specific details about the new Base Operations Facility and control tower.

The Base Operations Facility has state-of-the-art work stations for airfield operations and weather personnel supporting both the 5th Bomb Wing and 1st Missile Wing missions. It also has an updated training classroom, distinguished visitor lounge conference room, flight planning room and training space for maintaining airfield certifications.

The facility was designed to accommodate shift work and transient air crew and includes a fitness room, showers in both upstairs men’s and women’s restrooms, two crew rest quarters and a crew lounge.

The new location of the Base Operations Facility, coupled with direct access to the flightline and garage storage, reduces flightline emergency response time. The building has an unobstructed view of the flightline to monitor operations and weather fronts coming in.

The air traffic control tower allows its personnel to consolidate their training, certification and operations in one building.

Both facilities are equipped with geothermal systems using subsurface ground water to help heat and cool the buildings. Both facilities include touchless bathrooms, individual climate controls and motion-detecting lighting to reduce energy use.