Freezin's the Reason! Anyone who's been in the Air Force longer than a day knows the answer to that question! Business travel to Minot gave me my first ever visit to North Dakota and those bastions of the Northern Frontier, Minot AFB and Grand Forks AFB. I traveled up a day early, to allow for some quick personal visits before settling in for a week of hard work.
Saturday, 1 Oct 2005
From DFW, I flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), and connected to Minot International Airport (MOT), 48-15-30, 101-17-00. During W.W.II, this airport was called Port O'Minot and was listed for Navy use. After renting a car, I drove 200 miles east to Grand Forks, where I spent the night.
Sunday, 2 Oct 2005
First stop in the morning was Grand Forks AFB (3348, JFSD), where I visited the AAFES Shoppette for some snacks and coffee, then headed north. The base was designated in 1955.
There were two GWEN relay node sites north of Grand Forks, and the first one I located was Edinburg Communications Site GWEN 870 (FSGR), 48-28-11, 97-58-23. The site was established in 1991 and disposed of in 1999. The chain link fence enclosures remained, but the tower was gone. A local lady stopped to see what I was up to, and she told me the tower was removed between 2 and 5 years ago.
From there it was a short drive to the former Crystal Communications Site GWEN 848 (EXXK). At this one, the tower still stands. The site, sometimes referred to as Langdon, was established in 1991 and disposed of in 1999.
My next stop was an active Air Force installation, Cavalier Air Force Station (EGYN). I was not allowed to go on the base, but at least I've been to the gate. This was originally the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization Site (PARCS) component of the Army's Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex (SRMSC). SRMSC was our nations first anti-ballistic missile system, and served very briefly in the mid-1970s. When Safeguard was shut down, the PAR was transferred to the Air Force from the Army, in 1977. The Air Force initially called this site Concrete Missile Early Warning Station (MEWS), redesignating it Cavalier AFS in 1983. From 1994 to 2000 it was officially Cavalier Air Station, until the Force was reinstated.
My next stop was one of four Sprint missile annexes of the SRMSC, this one was RSL #3 (UQDW). The RSL stands for Remote Sprint Launch. Sprint was a high-speed, close range interceptor missile with a nuclear warhead.
Next was a quick look at Grand Forks Air Force Missile Site B-00 (JFTA), 40-45-48, 98-11-36. This is one of the 15 Launch Control Facilities (LCFs) that formerly controlled Minuteman missiles out of Grand Forks AFB. The launch control building, storage building, and garage were in good shape, and the hardened UHF antenna was still in place. The various Grand Forks missile sites were assigned ca. 1966, and inactivated ca. 1996.
Then it was north to another Sprint launch site, this time RSL #2 (UQDV).
I saw several of the former Grand Forks Launch Facilities (LFs), but I only stopped to photograph the remains of this one, Grand Forks Air Force Missile Site A-05 (JFSU), 48-49-49, 98-22-05. The identifying signs were gone at this, and most of the other LFs I saw.
The main component of the SRMSC was the Missile Site Radar (MSR) site (UQDT). This site has a distinctive concrete radar building that is visible for miles. This is still an active Army site, even though the MSR has been out of service for 30 years. In addition to the very distinctive concrete radar building, Sprint and Spartan missile launchers were located on this site. Spartan was a larger, longer-range missile than the Sprint.
Another Grand Forks LCF caught my eye, so I stopped briefly at Grand Forks Air Force Missile Site D-00 (JFTY), 48-33-14, 98-22-50. Although the underground launch control center was rendered inoperable and closed off, the aboveground buildings including the garage and storage building were left relatively intact.
On to another remote Sprint site, RSL #4 (UQDX).
Then the last of the four remote sites, RSL #1 (UQDU).
After that I drove to Minot and headed south out of town to the former Minot Air Force Station (1445, QJVM), 48-00-12, 101-17-40. This long range radar site was also called P-28, then Z-28, and it served from 1951 to 1979. A portion of the property was reactivated in 1984 as the Minot Communications Site and served until 1997. The gate was locked and no specific reuse was evident from outside the fence, aside from storage of some buildings. The housing area, to the south, continues in residential use.
Back in Minot, I detoured to see the former John Moses VA Memorial Hospital (7020, LVDC), 48-14-45, 101-18-54. Sometime prior to 1962, Minot AFB acquired this hospital from the Veterans Administration and it served as the base hospital for many years, until it was returned to the VA in 1991. In 1994 it became the Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center.
Then it was time to end the day's drive, so I headed north out of Minot to Minot Air Force Base (3346, QJVF). This base, so designated in 1955, is where I would be staying and working for the next week. This was about an eight-hour day, covering just over 400 miles.
Monday-Saturday, 3-8 Oct 2005
Our otherwise-productive week was interrupted by an early winter storm. On Wednesday, 5 October, the base -- as well as much of North Dakota -- was virtually shut down by the storm. By noon, we had over five inches of snow, the temp was 32 F, and the winds were averaging 45 mph. In simple terms, the snow was blowing sideways! By Wednesday night the snow stopped, and after digging out Thursday morning we were back at work, although we did much walking through snow drifts and slipping on ice. Hey, I'm not complaining. After all, it wouldn't truly be The Minot Experience without a snowstorm, would it?
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