Open and Honest: Base Town Hall

Written by: Erin Beene
Col. Daniel Hoadley, 5th Bomb Wing commander (left), Col. Kenneth McGhee, 91st Missile Wing commander (right), and Tom Ross, Mayor of the City of Minot (center), answer questions from members of Team Minot during a town hall on Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 25, 2023. Towns halls like these are a tool base leaders utilize to start conversations with the base populace about issues they may be facing. U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Alexander Nottingham

Every so often the base gets the pleasure of having some important people in the same place at the same time. Last Tuesday April 25th was one of those times. The Jimmy Doolittle Center hosted both Minot AFB Wing Commanders alongside the City of Minot Mayor, Tom Ross for the semi-annual Town Hall Meeting.

The meet-up was an opportunity for individuals on base to ask questions, present problems or hear about ongoing solutions or initiatives related to both the base and the community. The event invited all MAFB residents as well as prominent city-wide municipal leadership to participate in the audience. The Town Hall began with an introduction from Col. Daniel Hoadley, 5th Bomb Wing Commander. Questions which were submitted previously were first read aloud by Maj. Jhanelle Haag from the base Public Affairs office. After the pre-submitted questions were addressed the audience had the opportunity to ask questions directly to either the commanders or the Mayor. Some participants queried about several well-known and often-discussed Minot AFB challenges, but others uncovered some not-so-common issues.

Col. Hoadley, Col. Kenneth McGhee, 91st Missile Wing commander, and Mayor Ross answered the questions intentionally, patiently and with honesty, while also presenting facts and realism to questions about tough situations. No question was too uncomfortable or bothersome to be taken into consideration from this leadership panel.

Some topics discussed were: the Richardson’s ground squirrel, or “dakrat,” population control; 5th Medical Group pharmacy efficiency and medical care issues; the possibility of a Chick-Fil-A location in Minot; Davey Tree ground keeping in housing; base snow removal; road construction and pothole filling; racial issues and discrepancies at Minot Public Schools; and the new Trinity Hospital campus in town.

A Minot Air Force Base resident asks a question at a town hall at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 26, 2023. Team Minot leaders and representatives from the City of Minot work closely together to tackle issues that members may have. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Nottingham)

While many questions did not receive clean cut answers due to their complex nature, some were answered more solidly. For example, Mayor Ross confirmed that recycling within the City of Minot will begin this summer, and Col Hoadley added that the base hopes to get the services offered soon as well. Additionally, a spouse brought a question to the microphones about the possibility of building a fence around at least one of the on-base playgrounds for kids who have unique challenges and need extra physical boundaries to play safely. This suggestion was well-received and Col. Hoadley agreed that it could be something attainable.

When presented with questions about the various gaps in manning across the board, Col. McGhee offered a realistic approach to the nationwide problem. He explained that MAFB personnel, both military and dependent, should try to look internally instead of externally in terms of what we can all do to help out because, as Col Hoadley bluntly and honestly admitted that substantial change is not likely to happen soon. Referring to force-wide resourcing limitations, coupled with support capability challenges specific to our area, he encouraged attendees to lean on each other for support, as well as utilizing base and unit helping agents like First Sergeants and Key Spouses in tough times. He continues to encourage Airmen and family members to get involved in programs that provide peer support for mental health issues and life stressors, such as the Resiliency Training Assistants program. Those interested can reach out to their First Shirt, Commander, or Community Support Coordinator Samantha Mendoza.

Overall the Town Hall exhibited an honest perspective to many of the gritty issues our base and community face. The leadership for both entities were straightforward and transparent, which are admirable qualities in any leader. Thanks to everyone who came out to support the base and help make Minot a better place for everyone!

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