- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Work doesn’t take a holiday at Minot Air Force Base.

People will be working at the Air Force’s only dual wing nuclear-capable base in the nation. Some of them will be at their jobs in the Minot missile complex located in several counties.

What is it like for military members to work on Christmas at the base or in the missile complex?

“I’m filling in for one of my guys. This will be his kid’s first Christmas so I’m taking his spot,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Fitch.

Fitch, a member of the 742nd Missile Squadron, a unit of the 91st Missile Wing, will be working in the Minot missile field where he is a facility manager at one of 15 missile alert facilities.

The missile alert facilities, or MAFs, are the “home away from home” for military members in the missile field. At the topside of the MAF are facility managers, security forces, maintainers and chefs. Below are the officers who monitor the missiles.

Fitch will be at a missile alert facility just south of Tolley, about 53 miles northwest of the Minot base on Christmas.

For the people at the missile alert facility on Christmas, Fitch said, “The chefs mainly do turkey, ham, stuffing, sides…” He said those who will be at the MAF for a holiday, sometimes bring out extra food such as homemade pies, brownies and cookies

Fitch said, if needed, he’ll help the chefs with the preparations and setting up the meal.

The missile officers also will get a Christmas meal prepared by the topside chefs, he said.

Others help support those who must work on the holidays or cannot go home to be with their families, Fitch said. He said his commander’s wife is very active in the Key Spouse Program. The Key Spouse Program is made up of volunteers who are the communicators between units and the families. “They bake homemade cookies and and other homemade items, and try to make it more like family,” he said.

“Minot also supports us,” Fitch said, also noting the annual Airmen’s Cookie Drive, a program in which homemade cookies are collected and then given to single airmen in the dormitories, some who may not be able to go home for the holidays.

Fitch came to Minot AFB in 2009 after an assignment at Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, Alaska.

In the service since 1998, Fitch said he’s probably been home for four Christmases. Originally from Bemidji, in northwest Minnesota, he also has relatives in the Tolley and Minot areas.

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Rice, a member of the 5th Bomb Wing, is with the Command Post, which serves both the bomb wing and the missile wing.

This is Rice’s third winter here. Originally from St. Clairsville, Ohio, near the West Virginia border, He has been home only once for Christmas in his 10 years in the military. That was when he was transferring from Idaho to RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom.

“If that’s the way you’re scheduled, you go to work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s or any of those holidays,” said Rice. “Normally, it will be minimally manned so there won’t be a lot of people there. Normally, leadership will come in they’ll bring food, there will be cookies… they’ll try to ease the burden of it as much as possible.”

Working on holidays does mean being away from families.

“Being away from your family, it does make it hard if you’re not with them on the holidays. But I think most people understand they’re here for a reason,” Rice said. “Even some of those days you feel even a little bit more sense of pride of serving your country making the sacrifices and everything. I guess the wingman mentality kicks in around the holidays everybody pitches in to make those people feel a little bit better about working on the holiday and having to make that sacrifice.”

Rice, his wife, Neisha, and two sons, Deiondre, 13, Dominik, 9, live in Lansford, a community about 20 miles from the base. The boys go to school in Glenburn. When he has been on deployments and worked on holidays, he said, “They feel the brunt of it as well, but they understand.”

When making holiday plans, he said, “For the most part we try to minimize the impacts on the kids to make their life as normal as possible.”

When it comes to the community and its support, he said, “The community here is good, the community everywhere we’ve been has been good.”


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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