- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Minot Air Force Base has a new missile wing commander and it might be in line for more personnel.

Command of the 91st Missile Wing was transferred Tuesday from Col. Robert Vercher to Col. Michael Lutton. The military routinely brings in new leaders every few years.

The two commanders are essentially switching jobs. Vercher will become deputy director of mission assessment and analysis at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska - a position Lutton has held for the past two years. Vercher has commanded the 91st Missile Wing during the same time period.

Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, commander of 20th Air Force at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, presided over the change-of-command ceremony and credited Vercher and his wife, Amy, with integrating North Dakota Air National Guard members into security missions and reducing domestic abuse and drunken driving.

The Minot base oversees 150 Minuteman III missiles buried in silos across 8,500 square miles in northwest and north central North Dakota. It also is home to B-52 bombers, under the 5th Bomb Wing. The two wings are assigned to Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees nuclear missiles and bombers.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Global Strike Command leader Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson told him on Tuesday that many new airmen will be stationed at Minot, though Wilson did not provide a figure.

The military has been working to address problems, including morale and training issues, in the nuclear mission. Hoeven said the nuclear mission is a vital part of the Air Force and critical to U.S. security.

“Global Strike Command is adding a thousand personnel to the nuclear mission, and I anticipate that several hundred of those will come to Minot Air Force Base because we have both a bomber wing and a missile wing,” Hoeven said in a statement.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., praised what she called a “significant increase” in nuclear personnel.

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