Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited Minot Air Force Base, May 14. The senior leaders saw how Minot AFB has remained mission-ready and resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no more important mission than what’s going on right here at Minot (AFB). We know that we are not going to get relief from this critical, nuclear mission despite COVID-19 challenges,” Goldfein said. “And I couldn’t be prouder of this team, and what we’ve seen today.”
Goldfein and Wright toured the 5th Medical Group to see the efforts to reduce exposure to the virus while still providing medical operations. These efforts included the pharmacy drive-up location, mandatory face-covering guidance, collaboration with the local medical community and innovative, virtual telemedicine appointments.
“We have done an incredible job of maintaining social distancing and keeping the infection rate low,” said Col. Brad Cochran, 5th Bomb Wing commander. “I believe that’s truly based on quick decisions we made months ago, our Airmen’s efforts to stay disciplined, and by staying engaged and connected to the Center for Disease Control, local government and public health officials.”
Along with the medical group, Goldfein and Wright had a video chat with Airmen on duty at all the 91st Missile Wing‘s Missile Alert Facilities with Col. Glenn Harris, 91 Missile Wing commander. “Rough Riders have been on the front line of the COVID-19 response, providing combat-ready nuclear capability throughout the crisis,”Harris said. “I’m glad General Goldfein and Chief Wright could see firsthand the innovation and discipline our Airmen demonstrate every day as we execute this 24/7 nuclear mission.”
Both Goldfein and Wright were briefed about missile field security and new measures to maintain the health of Airmen performing alert missions, such as self-isolation procedures and COVID-19 screenings.
“I recognize that this is a challenging time, and I’ve seen our Airmen respond to challenging times before quite often, so I look forward to seeing how this impacts us in a positive way,”Wright said. “This will ultimately make us stronger. It will make us more resilient. It’ll help us connect and communicate in a different way. I think it will help us build different types of bonds both as professionals and as Airmen. Folks are developing new skills and I think it’s going to have a positive impact on our enlisted force.”
They also had lunch with base resiliency agencies where they discussed COVID-19 video updates from base leadership, videos from helping agencies, as well as the #MinotStrong video series that featured Minot AFB Airmen and key spouses sharing their experiences. The resiliency agencies provided additional information on virtual activities offered such as online chapel services, Airmen and Family Readiness Center virtual classes, and a virtual family paint night.
“I want to say thank you to the families, especially our spouses and family members,” Goldfein said. “You exhibited a special kind of courage. We can’t thank you enough for who you are, and what you bring to our Air Force and Minot AFB. Chief (Wright) and I are really proud to serve with you.”
Bomber flights and intercontinental ballistic missile crews also continue to train and maintain readiness with added precautions. This was demonstrated when the 69th Bomb Squadron returned from a nine-month deployment in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command‘s Continuous Bomber Presence mission last month. Goldfein and Wright saw the level of readiness firsthand during several stops on their tour of the base. They received a weapon-load trainer demonstration, toured the weapon storage area with new COVID-19 mitigation measures and the 91st Missile Security Operations Squadron Vehicle Control Center. They also had the opportunity to see several locally-developed innovation projects and new technology in development.
“Wing-command leadership, bomber wing and missile wing, have done a spectacular job at looking at the mission,” Goldfein said. “Assuming we would get zero relief, that the nuclear mission is a no-fail mission … on the worst day as a nation, our job is to get the commander in chief where he needs to be, when he needs to be there, stay connected to the forces in the field and be able to operate. We can’t get any relief from that, so I asked the commanders across the Air Force how we build breadth and depth to be able to operate through this virus. Minot AFB has done a spectacular job of that.”