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Last missile leaves North Dakota

Released: Jun 10, 1998


by Staff Sgt. Rich Romero
319th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- After more than three decades on alert under North Dakota soil, the last of 150 missiles assigned to the 321st Missile Group was removed June 3 during a cere mony near Park River.

With the departure of the last Minuteman III, located at Golf-15, the missile group moves one step closer to its inactivation July 2.

"For 34 years, we have had ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) out here in the fields of eastern North Dakota," said Col. Edward Rausch, group commander, during the June 3 ceremony. "They stood as a deterrent to any adversary in the world that might consider challenging the peace and freedom that we enjoy. These missiles did their job.

"Because of the ever present missiles on alert, we won the cold war. The Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed. What I'm feeling most inside . . . is a tremendous amount of pride; pride in all of the men and women in the 321st Missile Group, both past and present."

Among the distinguished visitors attending the ceremony was Lt. Gen. Lance Lord, Air Force Space Command vice commander. Lord began his career at here as a missile combat crew member, pulling alerts in the missile field from 1969 to 1973 in the years following the Cuban missile crisis. He also commanded the 321st Missile Wing from 1989 to 1990.

"When all of us as young people started in the missile business, we never dreamed of the day we would be removing the last one," Lord said.

More than 120 military members and civilians attended the ceremony commemorating the completion of a mission that began in October 1995, when the first missile was removed. Since then, 150 missiles have been removed from silos in the northeastern part of the state. Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., received 120 while the remaining 30 went to a depot in Utah for use in test launches. The transfer was a result of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission announcement.

Serving in the strategic defense of the country, the 321st Missile Group has undergone a comprehensive hardware metamorphosis during the past 40 years. Through the years, nevertheless, the 321st MG remained faithful to the defense of the United States. From the self-help modification of its first B-25 medium bomber aircraft in 1942, which the Army Air Force subsequently standardized into the inventory, to the redefining of the role of the combat targeting team missile officer in 1977, to the drawdown of missile wings in the 1990's, the 321st MG has consistently remained vigilant and on alert.

Daily for 34 years, members of the 321st operated the launch control centers maintained the missiles at launch facilities. They guarded and protected the missiles without fanfare or glory. Those in attendance June 3 witnessed the unit's most historic achievement -- mission complete. (Historical information provided by Staff Sgt. David Williams, 321st Missile Group historian)

RELATED SITES

* Air Force Space Command
* Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.
* Lt. Gen. Lance Lord
* Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.
* Minuteman III