Back in the “old days,” base newspapers used to be the main form of communication to Airmen and their families. Before cell phones and social media captured attention, scandal and complaints, people used to scour the weekly newspaper, put out by Public Affairs, to find out about incoming weather, opinions, updates about commands and, well, everything.
Today, it doesn’t need to be explained that this is no longer the case. While the Minot AFB newspaper, the Northern Sentry, still circulates every Friday around base and the community, it is no longer run by the base or even the Department of Defense at all. Additionally, it probably doesn’t get picked up with the same sense of urgency that it may have had decades ago. In fact, some base residents even discard the paper, or worse leave it laying in front yards to get buried under snow for months, which is a real shame because there could be valuable information and golden tickets (worth cash) just wasting away.
So it has to be asked, what is the purpose of the newspaper then? Some may say the paper newspaper is an antiquated thing of the past that is no longer relevant, and while there is a case for that line of thinking, others may point to the tradition and pride that a physical piece of paper has. The Northern Sentry is specifically designed, developed and targeted to the Minot AFB resident and that is its only purpose, to serve YOU, and support the ongoing Mission.
Because the Northern Sentry is run by an outside company, they have a unique ability to tailor their content to Airmen and families in addition to the stories the 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs office puts out. Everything in the paper is either about you or written for you. Its purpose is to share your lives, your challenges, your work and your schools. It is for you, to share your unique Minot AFB adventure. Did you know that?
For those history nerds out there, here is a truncated timeline of the newspaper at Minot AFB and how it did and still does share the Minot AFB Adventure.
- In February 1957, Minot AFB officially opened with the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the “Spittin’ Kittens,” under Air Defense Command. Later that year or the next, the Jet Gazette started as the first Minot AFB newspaper. (It is unclear as to the official start date or physical location of first editions of the Jet Gazette)
- On July 18, 1963 at the height of the Cold War the newspaper changed their name to The Sentry. With the anticipation of the 91st Strategic Missile Wing joining the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB and many other non-jet related Air Force organizations joining, it is speculated that this may have prompted the name change.
- While still operated by base PA, on March 13,1998, the name changed yet again to the Northern Star.
- On December 15, 2006 the paper underwent its final name change and made its way to the Northern Sentry. An excerpt from the Vol 44, No 50 states , “The Northern Sentry, just like the name, will combine an old tradition with a fresh perspective…Now, with different guidelines on what we can publish, we hope to provide a more interactive paper offering a product you cannot get anywhere else”
The Minot AFB newspaper has evolved over the years. Despite name and owner changes over the past 70 years, the Northern Sentry remains dedicated to Sharing the Adventures of those living and working in this unique area of the world. The Northern Sentry staff takes pride in being one of the few remaining Air Force base print periodicals still active today.
You are a part of history by just being at Minot AFB and being a part of this Minot AFB Adventure.
**Special thanks to Minot AFB librarian Julie Reiten and 5th Bomb Wing Historian Robert Michel for speaking with me and helping look through old editions of the base newspaper. Copies of the Jet Gazette, The Sentry, the Northern Star and the Northern Sentry can be found and are open to the public at the Minot AFB Library.