And it’s been a busy year for the personnel at GFAFB. In recent months, new missions have been announced there, including a new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission and a low-earth-orbit satellite mission. Curry addressed a crowd of about 300 people at the Alerus Center, on Thursday, Nov. 4, in the annual event organized by the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber.
“(2021) has been an historic year for Grand Forks Air Force Base; 2022 will be even better,” Curry said. “There’s no question about that.”
For security reasons, Curry wasn’t able to provide many details about the upcoming ISR mission, only that it would entail air, space and cyberspace operations. The new satellite mission, part of a partnership with the U.S. Space Development Agency is ongoing, and will make use of 400 small satellites to create a laser-based communications system. Curry said the missions well-position GFAFB to play a critical role in the future of national security.
“Grand Force Air Force Base and this community is on the forefront of that, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it stays that way,” he said.
Community leaders attend Thursday’s State of the Base breakfast hosted by the Chamber at the Alerus Center. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
In addition to the recently announced new missions, GFAFB is also the steward of the Global Hawk ISR mission, with operations being carried out around the world. Pilots at GFAFB remotely operated those large drones during the nation’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan. When briefed about that mission, Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of the Air Combat Command, said those pilots were worthy of commendation.
Curry noted the partnerships GFAFB has forged locally, including with UND, which he said offers thousands of opportunities to work jointly, on air, space and cyberspace initiatives.
Curry also highlighted several airmen for their work, including the efforts of a Lt. Cornelius. Cornelius is a Global Hawk pilot, who speaks multiple dialects of the Afghan language. Curry said Cornelius volunteered to go to Germany to assist with interpreting for Afghan refugees, and in doing so left a strong impression on those he assisted.
Airman 1st Class Jack LeGrande, Staff Sgt. Alexander Miller and Lt. Daniel Leonheart, whom Curry called “Lionheart,” were invited to stand and be recognized for their work in public affairs, mechanics and in developing relationships with industry partners.
Curry also highlighted the work of the more than 300 civilian employees who assist with the Global Hawk mission. Those workers add to the more than 2,000 active duty members present at GFAFB and the 771 people work at three geographically detached air bases that fall under the purview of GFAFB. Those bases are located in California, Guam and Italy.
Matt Dunlevy, left, and Greg Bowen, co-chairs of The Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, welcome guests to Thursday’s State of the Base breakfast. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
While the Global Hawk mission lives up to its name by spanning the world, it is operated locally. Speakers at Thursday’s event recognized the community for being welcoming to Air Force personnel, and their families.
Retired Gen. Gregory Bowen, who co-chairs the Military Affairs Committee at the Chamber with Matt Dunleavy, president of drone company SkySkopes, said he has lived in a number of communities near military installations, some more friendly than others.
“I cannot overstate how important it is to have the support of the community for our military and their families,” Bowen said. “I think we do a pretty good job of that here in Grand Forks.”