The sky is the limit

Minot Air Force Base has a great future, says retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dick Newton.

“What you find at Minot Air Force Base is two legs of the triad, which in my crystal ball will remain absolutely essential and significant for this nation’s national security for years to come. I don’t predict a time in my lifetime where we will not be relying on the nuclear triad and at Minot Air Force Base you get two legs of the triad. That’s significant,” said Newton.

Minot AFB is the only base with two legs of the triad B-52 bombers and Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The third leg of the triad is the Navy’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Newton, who now lives in Arlington, Va., is the executive vice president of the Air Force Association, a more than 100,000-member organization. He was assistant vice chief of staff and director, Air Staff, at U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C., before retiring in June 2012. His 34-year Air Force career included serving as commander of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base from February 2000 to December 2001.

Newton and his wife, Jody, were in Minot last week. Jody Newton, an accomplished singer, sang the national anthem at the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame banquet, a Norsk Hostfest activity, held at the Grand Hotel in Minot Oct. 2.

While here, Lt. Gen. Dick Newton’s activities included speaking to company grade officers at Minot AFB and meeting with members of Task Force 21, Minot’s base retention and new mission committee. He also met with The Minot Daily News Oct. 2.

Newton is from an Air Force family and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo. His command assignments included the first B-2 squadron and a B-1B operations group besides the B-52 wing at Minot AFB.

Newton said Minot AFB always has had a great mission success and, secondly, great relationships between the base, the City of Minot and other surrounding communities. He said those relationships are “the best I’ve seen in the Air Force.”

“I can say that from my standpoint of having been the 5th Bomb Wing commander…, but I don’t say that lightly,” he said. “There are a number of communities out there supporting our Air Force installations.” Newton named several with what he called “tremendous relationships” including Rapid City and Ellsworth AFB, S.D.; the Tidewater area and Langley AFB, Va.; and Omaha-Bellevue and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

“But there’s something magic about this relationship,” he said referring to Minot AFB, Minot and the area communities while tying in Minot’s Magic City nickname.

“From my standpoint I think that’s a cornerstone of what really makes Minot Air Force Base great people and their families who go in and out of there, certainly the airman and their families, but it’s certainly a relationship that the base has,” Newton said.

After leaving Minot AFB, Newton spent the last several years of his military career in Washington, D.C., in high-level military positions.

He was there and received one of the first calls in 2007 when six nuclear warheads were mistakenly loaded onto a Barksdale AFB, La., B-52 bomber at Minot AFB and flown to Barksdale. Gen. Michael Moseley was Air Force chief of staff at the time.

Newton took a lead role at the Pentagon, not only for the media relations but also the congressional relations in determining how they would move forward on it. Newton and Secretary of the Air Force Wynn conducted the news conference about the incident. “That was quite an experience,” Newton said, referring to that timeframe.

He said he remembers Rep.Ike Skelton, D-Mo., then chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, saying, “Just tell me the basics and how are you going to fix it?”

“I said, ‘Sir, here’s what happened from what we know at this point.’ This was about three days after the event. ‘Sir, the Air Force will get to the bottom of this. We will fix this,’ ” Newton said he told Skelton.

Since that time, he said, the Air Force has come a long way in refocusing on the strategic mission of Minot and other installations of the bomber side of the triad as well as the missile side.

“It’s compelled us to refocus but also to reinvigorate the nuclear enterprise to make sure we never forget that it’s truly our strategic nuclear deterrence that really provides the underpinning but also the overlay of everything else that we do national securitywise, and that’s one benefit, if you will, having come out of that event of 31 August of 2007.

“Fast forward today, we now have Air Force Global Strike Command. We now have still a terrific team of particularly young airmen, as I met with this morning (at Minot AFB), who are out there every day with 150 ICBMs and with launching B-52s,” Newton said. “The credit really goes to them with continuing this mission, and doing it in a way that, frankly, doesn’t get a whole lot of advertisement, doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition, doesn’t get much in terms of above-the-fold newspaper reporting, but in the same vein is absolutely essential to making sure this nation really does remain free and remains strong in a more and more unpredictable world.”

He said from time to time people will remember the incident in 2007. “But I’m very pleased with how far we have come and rather optimistic about our abilities, particularly after meeting with these company grade officers that I met with this morning.

“We’re in great hands. Frankly, we have nothing to worry about. You’ve got a team of professionals out there who are doing extraordinary things, and doing extraordinary things without getting much recognition for it. They’re the sign of professionals they keep on doing the job,” Newton said.

Editor’s note: For more of the interview with retired Lt. Gen. Dick Newton, see the Sunday, Oct. 13, Military page in The Minot Daily News.

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to mdnews@minotdailynews.com.)