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Published December 03, 2010, 08:06 PM

'Mission Complete' As Last Tankers Leave

Friday was the official end to another chapter at the Grand Forks Air Force base. Missions such as nuclear alert to combat support have been completed in the past. Now, it's goodbye to the tankers.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Friday was the official end to another chapter at the Grand Forks Air Force base. Missions such as nuclear alert to combat support have been completed in the past. Now, it's goodbye to the tankers.

There was all the pomp and circumstance you might expect for a 50-year mission farewell on Friday at the Air Force Base.

The Base became the first super tanker wing in the Air Force. With that title, the last of the kc-135 tankers will take off from the base for good on Saturday.

The squadron of the 319th Refueling Wing has declared their mission complete with a ceremonial retirement of their flags.

"It culminates 50 years of devout professional, service, and dedication and commitment to defending our great nation," Col. Donal Schaffer said.

"Fueling the fight, no matter where we had to go to reach the enemy. The KC-135 was there," Gen. Raymond Johns said.

The mission's end was also cause for a look back at the role that the community of Greater Grand forks played.

"When the base was built in '56 and '57, through the floods, through the relationship of our airmen going downtown, to you being up here. Thank you," Gen. Johns said.

At the end of the ceremony, members of the 319th tanker squadron scribble their goodbyes in chalk messages on the belly of the last KC-135. The aircraft will make it's final flight out of North Dakota Saturday, arriving at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas for it's new tanker mission.

It's estimated about 200 airmen will be leaving by the end of the year as the last tanker leaves. Roughly the same number of people will be coming to the base to work on remotely piloted aircraft. The base population is estimated to be about 1500 people as the new mission begins.

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