A Hard Place to Leave

Written by: Rod Wilson
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jessica Ramsay, 5th Bomb Wing Legal Office civil law paralegal, poses for a portrait at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Jan. 24, 2023. She was one of two Airmen selected by Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, the previous commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, for a spot in the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program. U.S. Air Force photos I Airman 1st Class Alexander Nottingham

Not all of us have lived in a location that we find undesirable. But if you have, you may have borrowed a quote from a song by Mac Davis that talks about “happiness seeing Lubbock in your rear view mirror.” It may be true that heading south because you can’t go north is going toward warmer weather, more urban surroundings, and being a little closer to home.

But for SrA Jessica Ramsay, her soon to be transfer from Minot is quite the opposite. For Jessica, seeing Minot in her rear-view mirror is going to be difficult, as she “really loves Minot.” You may have heard Jessica’s name mentioned in recent news stories as being one of only two Airmen recommended by General Anthony Cotton to attend the very prestigious Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program for enlisted Airmen. If you want to read the whole story of her elevation to the SLECP-A program, go online and check out the February 3rd edition of the Northern Sentry. It truly is an honor to be selected and we certainly wish Jessica the best in her future career.

But now back to the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say. Jessica is from South Africa, and when she was younger her family moved to Australia and then the United States. “When I moved to the U.S., I was in Connecticut,” according to Jessica. Her accent definitely retains the sounds of Australian and South African.

It was in July of 2020 that SrA Ramsay arrived in Minot, and her assignment here is a whole other story. A friend of mine and a very active Minot AFB supporter, Bruce Christianson, was beaming with joy at a recent Honorary Commander event when he described Jessica’s appointment to me, and he shared that Jessica was a guest at the Christianson house for many special events. How might that happen, you ask? Well according to Jessica, her neighbor in Connecticut was U.S. Air Force retired Colonel Mohler, who was assigned to Minot twice, once as the Vice Commander of the 5th Bomb Wing. It was he who enticed Jessica into joining the Air Force when she was having difficulty acquiring enough financial aid to attend college. Mohler was a good friend of Jessica’s parents and Bruce Christianson, so when Jessica eventually was assigned to Minot AFB it was natural for them all to connect and make sure that Jessica’s assignment to Minot would indeed be a positive experience. According to Jessica it has definitely been a positive assignment.

Before, her dreams of being in the diplomatic corps and living in different countries around the world were not possible because of her challenges in attending college. Dreams of being an officer in Air Force were not possible because she was not yet (although she is now) a U.S. citizen. Jessica says, “I enlisted because it was still what I wanted to do.”

Her career took a bit of another turn when she received her first orders to Maxwell Air Force Base where her tech school for being a paralegal was. “So, I swapped orders, and the only person who would swap orders with me had Minot.” Jessica continues, “I really wanted to come here because I thought it would be a part of the country that I would never have the opportunity to see. It was a risk I wanted to take to expand my career horizon. It really has paid off. I’ve worked hard here. It has been so rewarding, and it has opened my eyes as to what national security is really about, particularly in the nuclear domain.”

So, when asked about her time in Minot, Jessica is quick to talk about all of the positive experiences of her time in Minot like “seeing the Northern Lights and going to every place on a bucket list that North Dakota has.” She says, “I like to jump in my car with a friend and go witness something new. I got to get to Yellowstone this summer. [This is] a great part of the country because we have access to places like that.”

She continues, “Minot has been the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life because it forced me to grow up a lot. I came here as an 18 year old, and now I am leaving here with a very positive career path and amazing opportunities.”
It’s interesting to hear Jessica talk about how much of a challenge the cold is. “You kind of have bragging rights. People talk about how cold it is, but that gives me an opportunity to tell them about what we are doing here. Other bases shut down because of weather, but up here we see it as a challenge to keep going and have an opportunity to succeed.”
As for activities, Jessica says, “I’ve tried just about everything here. My office even had a curling team.”
Jessica feels that the community of Minot takes care of the Airmen at Minot Air Force Base.

When asked, Jessica turns the table a bit about changing things about Minot.

“If I could change one thing in Minot it would the perception, because when people say certain things about Minot and discredit it, it’s from people who have never even been here. They’ve never been here and haven’t experienced a Minot summer. I’ve never experienced days when the sun sets at 11 o’clock at night… it’s amazing, and then the Northern Lights come out. You drive to Antler, North Dakota, to these very small town restaurants and you look up at the sky and see the Northern Lights. If people would talk about those things, they would be more excited and more willing to embark on the challenge that it is to be stationed here and enjoy it, because I think most people do enjoy it when they get here. We have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights because we don’t have the lights and commotion of the city. Where else can you go and see and appreciate nothingness? It’s stark beauty. It’s only a small part of your life being stationed here, so you may as well appreciate the beauty for what it is. It’s incredible.”

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