By Senator John Thune
On May 19th, 2012, Ellsworth Air Force Base will celebrate its 70th anniversary. From 1942 to present day, Ellsworth has served a vital role in protecting and preserving America’s freedom and liberty at home and abroad. Ellsworth has proudly served as the home of numerous elite aircraft units in our nation’s history, including the 28th Bomb Wing.
Between May 18th-20th, Ellsworth will host several events to celebrate the base’s 70 years of contributions to our state and nation, including a dinner in which the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Norton A. Schwartz, will deliver an address. This is an exciting time for not only the Ellsworth base community, but for all South Dakotans.
Throughout the years, thousands of pilots, navigators, radio operators, gunners, missile launch control facility personnel, and aircraft and missile maintenance personnel have served at Ellsworth, many risking their safety, and in some cases, paying the ultimate price for our freedom. Later this year, Ellsworth will also welcome a new mission with the addition of the 432nd Attack Squadron—a squadron that will remotely pilot MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles.
The men and women who have and continue to serve at Ellsworth are the best of the best, compiling some of the highest marks in national competitive readiness and maintenance exercises and competitions over the course of the base’s history.
In addition to playing a vital role in defending the United States, Ellsworth has had a direct positive economic impact in South Dakota. The base serves as one of the largest employers in the state, employing over 5,000 people and producing more than $300 million in total estimated economic impact. Many of the surrounding communities also benefit from the economic impact of the base.
While Ellsworth has endured uncertain periods throughout the years, it has always played an integral role in our nation’s defense strategy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the United States Senate to ensure that Ellsworth’s contributions are recognized.
I encourage all South Dakotans to take special note of Ellsworth’s important role throughout the past 70 years and to keep our brave military members in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to serve on our behalf.