Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force visits North Dakota

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Raisa Christie
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin visited Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, Oct. 10, 2023. 

Allvin previously served as commander of 905th Air Refueling Squadron at Grand Forks AFB from April 2001 to June 2003. In the decades since, the base’s mission was re-designated from the 319th Air Refueling Wing to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing as its air assets transformed from KC-135 Stratotankers to the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20, 30, and now 40.

“Gina and I served here in Grand Forks, it’s a part of our experience,” Allvin said. “We were here when 9/11 happened. We were here following the 1997 floods where we got to see the base community come together at a critical time and become stronger.”

Allvin also delivered a keynote address at the 17th annual Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Summit and Expo, a yearly event drawing in UAS experts from around the world, in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

During his address, Allvin highlighted the UAS advancements happening as a result of community and industry partnerships across the state of North Dakota.

“I walk away in awe of what has developed here and I look forward to what’s to come,” Allvin said. “When we see all the applications that happen for the country in regards to national security and non-national security, this ecosystem is really developing for the country. It’s heartwarming to come back home and be able to be a part of it.”

The visit also provided Allvin the opportunity to meet with Air Force and Army ROTC cadets at the University of North Dakota. The University of North Dakota is the nation’s first university to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Unmanned Aerial System studies and offers students the opportunity to study a variety of aviation-related careers and artificial intelligence. 

Allvin thanked the cadets for their commitment to the country and encouraged them to capitalize on emerging technology. 

“The development of algorithms will help us make decisions that will give us advantages over the humans on the other end who are trying to beat us,” Allvin said. “What is fascinating about the cadets here is that you are not afraid to leap into trying new technology and are not held back by old war traditions for nostalgia. Those traditions were astounding back then, but the Airmen of today are more innovative than Airmen have ever been before.”

Allvin added, “We need a strong connection between senior leaders and junior leaders. A generationally diverse force is key to our warfare success. We must come together to reflect our readiness to be able to confront current warfare.”

The visit also allowed Allvin to view budding technology developed and stored at the Grand Sky business and aviation park. 

Mike Fridolfs, Northrop Grumman’s site director, spoke with Allvin in depth about the warfare capabilities of the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the strategic planning leading up to its fruition.

“Northrop Grumman built a state-of-the-art facility at Grand Sky because of the ability to work closely with our customers and because of the region’s strong academic institutions and commitment to supporting the autonomous systems industry,” Fridolfs said. 

Allvin observed how the state of North Dakota has developed into an autonomous and UAS ecosystem, beginning with instruction at universities like the University of North Dakota and culminating in aviation careers at facilities like Grand Sky. 

“Working with local universities and colleges to help educate the next generation of aeronautics professionals helps strengthen the community where we live and work and the security of our nation,” said Fridolfs.