Air Force Staff Sgt. named officer of the year

Minot Air Force Base Staff Sgt. Kimura Helwig was named the law enforcement officer of the year, winning over several other named nominees, at the “Respect for Law Luncheon put on by the Optimist Club of Minot in the Student Union building at Minot State University Wednesday around lunch time.

A San Diego, Calif., native, Helwig has been stationed around the world during her six-year career with the United States Air Force. She was first stationed in Germany but went on from there to Poland, Guam, and even two separate deployments in Japan. She said that she went from high school to study at a community college in Mississippi while visiting family and then completed several internships before enlisting in the military.

She was sure she wanted to be in the military and was sure that her leadership recognize and acknowledge her “and give credit where credit is due,” as she said in an interview with media after the event, but that she had no idea that she was even nominated for an award, let alone that she was going to win one, before the moment her name was mentioned.

“I literally drove in from the field and was turning in my weapon and heard, ‘You, come with me.’ I had caught wind that there was an award banquet and nominating an officer but I never thought it was me,” she said.

The nomination letter, written by one of her commanding officers, was read aloud by Capt. Dan Strandberg, of the Minot Police Department who also serves as the president of the Optimist Club of Minot, before she was introduced.

“Sgt. Helwig’s accomplishments both on and off duty define a true professional and impacts those within her scope of responsibility. Kimura is a respected member of both Minot Air Force Base and the City of Minot community. Kimura has distinguished herself as a flight security controller and a response forces leader, 91st Security Forces Squadron,” he read from the letter.

Specific accomplishments mentioned in the letter include

– Superior “supervision of first responders to safeguard” the 8.500 square miles surrounding the base that includes 150 intercontinental ballistic missile launch facilities

– Significant contributions toward securing the first “excellent security rating” to be achieved in 14 years without a significant inspection discrepancy for the 91st Missile Wing’s latest surety inspection

– Community work amounting to over 294 volunteer hours, including leading a 10 member council for the 2013 National Police Week activities and organizing the Minot Trinity Homes’ Friends of Veterans program

Law enforcement

The event also included a speech by Ward County State’s Attorney Rozanna Larson, who showed the stark contrast between the way local law enforcement worked in 2000 compared to now.

She said that in 2000, Ward County’s population was 58,000 people but is now estimated at 68,000. The Minot Police Department had 58 sworn officers, the Ward County Sheriff’s Office had 19 sworn deputies, the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s local office had 19 sworn troopers, and eight of all those officers served on the Ward County Narcotics Task Force.

Photographic evidence was film based in the era before digital photography became standard and the State’s Attorney’s office would receive “hundreds and hundreds of pictures to find three or four that might be in focus, not too bright, not too dark but just right to try to get to the jurors.”

Audio evidence was on cassettes, video as well, and criminal informants who were microphoned were hard to hear.

The State’s Attorney’s office had five attorneys who filed 231 felony cases.

In 20013, they filed 705 felony charges, an increase in 167 percent when the population of the county has only risen by 13 percent.