WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published November 10, 2009, 05:05 PM

GFAFB Commander Talks About The Base And Its Future

The commander of Grand Forks Air Force base today said the base couldn't be in a better position for its new mission and its future.

By: Steve Bodakowski, WDAZ

With a population just over 42-hundred and only 17-hundred being active duty airmen, the population of the Grand Forks Air Force base has dropped a third in the past year. Outgoing base commander Colonel John Michel says that will soon change.

Colonel John Michel: "The population will start to grow when the Global Hawk mission is here. Our first official Global Hawk team starts joining us late spring early summer."

In the mean time Michel says they've been working with the community to build new partnerships...like with UND. He says it will show the Air Force they can compete for any mission.

Colonel Michel: "One of the significant factors in determining new missions is what is the strength of the community involvement and how much do they want the new mission."

And that's where Diane Blair comes in . She's in charge of aligning outside interest with the base.

Diane Blair: "As a community we need to make sure the Air Force knows we want new missions and to continue telling the story as to why Grand Forks is the best place for new missions."

The base is building a new control tower, and millions of dollars more in improvements and new construction are in the works. Most notably the base is competing for two new missions in the next months. One is a new MC12 mission. It involves reconnaissance and surveillance planes. And next month the military will look at the base to build a non-commissioned officer training academy which could bring thousands to the base.

Colonel John Michel: " The important thing people understand when there's new roads being poured, buildings going up it means there's a future coming."

However Michel's future is certain. He'll be leaving for Scott Air force base for a new job next month."

Michel says a new commander could bring new energy to continue the building process.

Michel will be replaced by Colonel Donald Shaffer at a a change-of-command ceremony Friday.