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SATAF team visits Grand Forks AFB

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  • By 090616
Another step toward the realignment of Grand Forks AFB was taken as the third Site Action Task Force started arriving Grand Forks AFB June 7 in an effort to finalize Base Realignment and Closure recommendations and plans. The visit, like the two before, focused on the beddown of Grand Forks AFB's "Family of [Unmanned Aircraft Systems]."

The SATAF was composed of functional experts from Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard and other major commands and organizations. Their expertise ranged from logistics and infrastructure to airspace and airfield operations.

"I am 100 percent confident that you will not find a wing, base, community or state more committed to making the BRAC transition a seamless success," Col. John Michel, 319th Air Refueling Wing commander, told the team. "We believe the right thing to do is be good stewards of the taxpayer's money, and we are all in to work beside you in making sure this transformation is done right."

The BRAC law of 2005 called for the base's KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft to transfer to other bases, while Grand Forks AFB transitioned to a UAS mission, which includes ACC MQ-4 Global Hawks and ANG MQ-1 Predators. The aircraft delivery is scheduled to be complete by December 2013, but the arrival of the first UAS remains undetermined due to commitments in contingency operations and completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently being modified to reflect issues and needed upgrades identified by the SATAF.

As of June 1, when a change in the base's programming plan was released, a new challenge emerged for AMC. According to the new verbiage, AMC will retain "ownership" of the base in order to support any future air mobility missions that may materialize, while the Guardsmen and ACC Airmen will be assigned to tenant units on base.

"For AMC, the question to try to answer [during the SATAF] is 'how do we drawdown the current mission while preserving [infrastructure] to gen up again?'" said Maj. Al Horsens, an AMC team lead for the SATAF, during the in-brief.

Meanwhile, ACC and ANG are making strides with notional plans for office space, facility usage, personnel numbers and support needs.

The final manpower determinations will also depend on the EIS approval, scheduled for April to August 2010. However, the SATAF explained that Global Hawk manpower arrival will be time-phased to align with aircraft delivery once authorizations can be added.

While individual agencies hash out details for their own needs, they are also discussing the future of integrated agencies and organizations. In fact, the 319 ARW safety staff may find themselves working side-by-side with Customs and Border Protection, ACC and ANG safety professionals, which would create the first interagency amalgamation of ground and flight safety and occupational health oversight.

Other units are in similar discussion about the effectiveness and efficiency of combining operations, as well.

"Although there are still many decisions to be finalized, we are moving toward a dynamic, relevant future for the base, the Air Force, the community and North Dakota as a whole," Colonel Michel added. "The opportunities to further our evolving mission as an even more enterprising partnership among our current and future teammates are incessant. We are contextualizing the base for the battlespace, whether here in the Red River Valley or across the seas supporting the warfighter." 

Mr. Jerry Evans, ACC Basing Branch, reiterated the over-arching theme due to the new base structuring.

"It is a work in progress," he said. "We have a good idea as to what we need to do, but we'll go back, look at the action items, make changes and that's o.k. We're much further ahead of where we were a week ago. From a SATAF perspective, we've captured a lot of considerations to resolve." 

In closing, Colonel Michel commented once more about the base's willingness to support and provide input in order to achieve a successful EIS and thus, a flourishing blend of expertise and professionalism committed to creating a dynamic team of Grand Forks Airmen, whether active duty or Guardsmen, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security civilians and contractors.

"We're fired up about it," he averred. "Collectively, we're building a team unlike any other in the Air Force. Granted, we've made plans on what we knew, and those plans have to be adapted for new objectives, but there was a lot of work done in the last 72 hours to make great strides toward a collective goal of April 2010 to provide a resolution for many of these unanswered questions."