Minot Air Force Base is a Melting Pot of Cultures
Where are you from? It’s the first question that I normally ask after meeting a new Airmen or family member stationed at Minot Air Force Base. “Where am I really from?” is often the answer, “Because I was an Air Force brat and lived all over” they will add. Minot is certainly unique in that the Minot Air Force base is a significant part of the population of the community. Hardly a day goes by that I won’t meet someone that was brought to the Minot area through their affiliation with the Air Force, and of course Minot Air Force Base.
Let me digress a bit, because asking where you are from is very normal, even for us native North Dakotans. However, the conversation between two folks who are “from around here” is a bit different. Once I answer that I am from Maddock, (a small North Dakota town of around 500 people) I expect that the person I am meeting will know someone, who knows someone, who is related to a person from Maddock. Seriously, hardly a conversation will end without finding common ground, albeit it could be stretching the boundaries a bit because you want to eventually have some commonality with the person you just met.
That is normally not true when meeting someone from the Minot AFB. Instead, you listen intently as they share places they’ve been. To them, Minot is another change in culture, quite different from Barksdale in Louisiana or Osan in Korea. You soon learn about three letter acronyms like TDY and PCS. The commonality you have with them is Minot, North Dakota. If they have not been through a winter in North Dakota yet, conversation will revolve around what to expect. Some of us downplay the extremes of winter, others seem to want to paint a picture that would make even the most seasoned North Dakota native cringe.
If you regularly read my articles in the Northern Sentry, you know that I like to share my experiences in North Dakota, from the Badlands to the Pembina Gorge, and hundreds of places in between. This is also true of those who have made the Air Force their career choice. Many of them have been stationed at multiple bases, in countries from Germany to Japan. They begin to share what they have done, and parts of the world that they have seen and experienced. Many joined the Air Force to see the world, and that is exactly what a lot of them have done. Minot, through Minot Air Force Base is truly a melting pot of cultures, both nationally and internationally.
My wife and I want to tour the Blue Ridge mountain area someday. One of my Minot AFB acquaintances lived in Asheville, North Carolina. He drew me out a map, on a napkin of course, of places that we should go, and “can’t miss” attractions. I would venture a guess that if there was someplace, anywhere in the U.S. or even the world, that you want to go, there would be someone at Minot AFB who has been there. Of course, you can’t just stand at the gate and interview people entering and leaving the base to locate that person who may have been to Greece (just a suggestion). My point is that having Minot Air Force Base as part of our community certainly gives us a unique opportunity to learn from others. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to share those out of the way locations with those you meet who are assigned to Minot Air Force Base. A napkin at a coffee gathering works perfect as a make-shift map.
Finally, let’s not dwell on extremes. Every climate has them. Too much rain, too much heat, too much-well you get the point. There are times in North Dakota when there is certainly too much wind, and there are times when there is too much cold. And yes, there are times when you mix wind, cold and snow together and you get a blizzard. But one blizzard does not a winter make. There are days when a North Dakota winter is truly beautiful. Ice fishing is a great outdoor adventure. But how can you ice fish, if you don’t have ice.
The opportunity to learn is out there, folks. So, let’s seize it, and embrace it.
Best Kept Secret
I don’t often talk about restaurants, because there are so many “great” restaurants. However, I rarely drive through Stanley, North Dakota, without heading downtown for a Whirl A Whip at Dakota Drug. The secret to Whirl A Whip is that it takes any of your favorite flavors, mine happens to be Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and blends them into hard ice cream. Those other places do something similar with soft serve ice cream, but Whirl A Whips are so much better.
Next time you’re headed for Stanley, or maybe just make a special trip, make sure to allow a few extra minutes for a Whirl A Whip! You won’t be disappointed.
Be good to your parents. They did all they could to provide for you long after you ceased being adorable and fun to be with.