By Capt. Penny Ripperger
North Dakota National Guard
Minot, N.D. - Today the 219th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) of the North Dakota Air National Guard will dispatch personnel into the missile fields at Minot Air Force Base for the first time.
"Putting guardsmen into the field to work side by side with the active duty is a significant accomplishment, and it would not be happening without the exceptional Airmen of the 219th, who have shown unwavering dedication to their mission," said North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven.
Army Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, the adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard said the Airmen have prepared and trained for this mission. "This marks a milestone, and the North Dakota National Guard looks to the future through this exceptional partnership with the Minot Air Force Base."
This mission was made possible when the unit received Headquarters Air Force approval of their Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) for full-time Air Guard members earlier this month.
"To be PRP approved means that we have implemented all of the necessary procedures and requirements set forth by the Secretary of Defense and the Air Force to ensure only the most reliable Airmen fill positions associated with missile field security," said Master Sgt. Lonnie Ballweg, the 219th SFS's senior medical technician. "(It) is significant because it allows full-time Guardsman of the 219th to conduct mission specific training and support the 91st Missile Wing in day-to-day training and surge requirements."
Staff Sgt. John Chalupa and Airman 1st Class Erik Foss will be the first PRP certified Airmen to deploy into the missile field.
"(They) are leading the way within the 219 SFS the same way that the 219th itself is leading the way in the nation," said Col. Robert Becklund, 119th Wing commander. "Guardsmen working alongside active duty airmen on a daily basis is the future and that is exactly what we're doing in Minot."
Currently, the 219th SFS is working with Headquarters Air Force to establish a special plan using traditional or part-time guardsman in the PRP program.
"We've had to overcome many hurdles, which are expected when you're forging your way in new territory," said Lt Col Tad Schauer, the 219th SFS commander. "We could not have done this without the support and commitment of Team Minot. No one has ever done anything like this before, and we are working together to ensure it gets done right the first time."
The relatively new squadron celebrated its official activation on Oct. 18, but recruiters began filling the 140 positions in April 2007. Once fully staffed, the 219th SFS will be the largest Air Guard security forces squadron in the nation.
"It is very exciting because we just hit the halfway point in filling the positions in the 219th SFS," said Master Sgt. Tanya Augdaul, a 219th SFS recruiter. "We are right on target for our recruiting goals, but we're not slowing down. We need to keep working hard to make sure people know that there are Air National Guard opportunities in the western part of the state."