Bush takes charge at GFABFCol. Donald Shaffer isn’t worried about braving another North Dakota winter this year. Leaving Grand Forks Air Force Base for a new position at the Pentagon, Shaffer joked he wouldn’t quite miss the chilling winter weather. “I told myself this morning, ‘I’m going to miss all those folks,’ right up until around Christmas when the temperature hits 20 below, and it starts snowing,” he said. “Then I won’t miss Grand Forks, but I’ll miss the people, and I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.”
By: By Erik Burgess, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Col. Donald Shaffer isn’t worried about braving another North Dakota winter this year.
Leaving Grand Forks Air Force Base for a new position at the Pentagon, Shaffer joked he wouldn’t quite miss the chilling winter weather.
“I told myself this morning, ‘I’m going to miss all those folks,’ right up until around Christmas when the temperature hits 20 below, and it starts snowing,” he said. “Then I won’t miss Grand Forks, but I’ll miss the people, and I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.”
Shaffer addressed the 319th Air Base Wing in a hanger at Grand Forks Air Force Base as commander for the last time Wednesday morning. After a final salute to the 400 airmen standing at attention, his duties as commander were turned over to Col. Timothy Bush.
Shaffer was commander during a major transition at the base. For 50 years, Grand Forks Air Force Base ran a refueling operation. It is now taking on an unmanned aircraft mission, with the arrival of Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft in early June. The change was noted more officially when the base was redesignated the 319th Air Base Wing in March, dropping the old name 319th Refueling Wing.
“It has truly been a busy 20 months … We had a whole lot of angst about what this new mission would be,” he said. “But this … simply marks another transition in the long history of Grand Forks Air Force Base and the fantastic service we’ve provided to our nation.”
In the near future, Shaffer noted the arrival of many new pieces for the unmanned aircraft mission. UND would be arriving next month, he said, to start operations from their UAS Center of Excellence. Predator aircraft teams from Fargo and from U.S. Customs and Border Protection are another piece.
“We’ve got a very dynamic operation going on here,” he said.
Newly appointed wing commander, Col. Timothy Bush, said he was excited for the opportunity to take over, and he promised success in what he called a “very demanding time” in the history of the air force.
“I am excited to learn a new mission,” he said. “I’m excited to be exposed to something new … We will be successful together, I promise you that.”
The switch couldn’t have come at a busier time for the base. Aug. 1, a compliance inspection will be done to insure the base is up to U.S. Air Force standards. According to base public affairs, this inspection is done almost every year and never falls on the same date each year.
Shaffer recognized this challenge, but said he was certain the inspection would go smoothly with the new commander.
“(The inspector) is going to expect to see perfection,” he said. “He’s going to expect to see excellence, and I know that this team, under the leadership of your new wing commander is going to not only show him what it means to do it the Grand Forks way, but to send him out the door in awe and wonder.”
A new mission
Shaffer started his term as wing commander here in November of 2009. During his term, the base saw a phasing out of its refueling capabilities in exchange for unmanned aircraft.
The last of 60 refueling tankers flew out of Grand Forks this past December. The first Global Hawk unmanned aircraft arrived June 1, and the base is slated to eventually receive 10 such aircraft.
The base lost 700 personnel once the refueling operations were completed, Shaffer said, but the base population is growing again with the arrival of a reconnaissance wing detachment from a Northern California air base.
Detachment One of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing was sent from Beale Air Force Base, about 50 miles north of Sacramento, to Grand Forks to assist with Global Hawk and unmanned aircraft missions.
Before this assignment, Bush was vice commander of the 92nd Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.
The details of Shaffer’s assignment at the Pentagon have not yet been made public.
Erik Burgess is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald,
which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.