Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Wednesday, 04 April 2018 14:12

Ellsworth Airmen Depart to Combat Terrorism

Two B-1 bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base recently departed to Qatar, reports KOTA News. The B-1 bombers will support missions that are currently battling against terrorist organizations. B-1 bombers have not assisted in combat since 2016, when the fleet was pulled for substantial upgrades. Prior to 2016, the bombers had been in continuous combat since 2001.

While over half of the B-1 bomber fleet has been upgraded, the final upgrades are not expected to be completed until 2019. The upgrades come at a cost of $127 million and include the installation of an integrated battle station.

To read more about Ellsworth Air Force Base, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.

Published in News

On March 27, 2011, over 1,100 maintenance personnel launched four B-1 bombers out of Ellsworth during a blizzard to assist in Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. The bombers’ launch marked the first occurrence the aircraft was ever launched from a continental U.S. location to support combat operations.

While just two B-1 bombers and their crews would continue strikes in Libya, the mission mandated extensive communication as well as assistance personnel working around the clock. Aviators in the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons had been briefed on the operation before they prepared the strike mission which would occur over 6,000 miles away from Ellsworth Air Force Base. Less than a day later, 125 munitions were built—enough to equip seven B-1s.

The B-1 Bombers arrived in Libya 12 hours following take-off. The mission that followed would be the deepest strike made during Operation Odyssey Dawn, with the aircraft occupying hostile airspace for over an hour. During the two-day strike, the bombers hit over 100 targets.

Published in Home

Pennington County has called for a moratorium on building permits in a new subdivision located outside Box Elder. Valley Heights, the subdivision affected, has 150 single family homes, and 68 empty lots currently.

Providing water to the subdivision has proven difficult, as it is located outside of Box Elder city limits. The Box Elder water system is facing concerns about water transportation through existing mains, the failure of a city well, and the structural integrity of a water tower that supplies Valley Heights. The City of Box Elder will continue to serve Valley Heights residents so long as the current water tower in place--which is not owned by Box Elder--continues to function properly. 

Discussion about how to address these problems will be ongoing, including the possibility of creating a sanitary district or a non-profit organization for Valley Heights to take its water supply matters into their own hands.

For more information on Box Elder, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network news archive or community profile page

Published in News

Liv Hopsitality, LLC is discussing a public-private partnership with the City of Box Elder for a new event center, reports the Rapid City Journal.  The potential event center would cost nearly $20 million to build and would be located near WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort.  Liv Hospitality manages several of the hotels and restaurants near exit 61 on Interestate 90, in addition to the waterpark.

In addition to the event center, the Box Elder City Council is also considering creating a business improvement district. Existing and future hotels located within the new business district would be assessed a city tax. Several of the hotels in the district are managed by Liv Hospitality.  Liv Hospitality CEO, Caleb Arceneaux, said the center would be able to host concerts, comedians, conventions, among other events.

To read more about Box Elder, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network online news archive or community profile.

Published in News

Badger Clark and Francis Case Elementary Schools will function as one building beginning next fall, reports KOTA TV News. The schools are currently set up with kindergarten through first grade operating in Badger Clark and second and third grades operating in Francis Case. In 2017, the schools will work as one, with kindergarten through third grades in both buildings.

With the arrangement, students will face fewer transitions before reaching middle school and teachers will have more time to get to know their students and families. The Douglas School District has approved the changes, which were initially brought up during a faculty retreat.

To read more news from Box Elder, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.

Published in News
Tuesday, 27 September 2016 22:19

Six Lanes A Possibility for Interstate 90

On Monday, the South Dakota Transportation Commission decided to move forward with negotiations regarding several miles of service road toward Box Elder, reports the Rapid City Journal. This move may indicate plans to expand Interstate 90 from the current four lands to six. Such a plan would require approval from the City of Box Elder, Pennington County, and the Department of Transportation.

If the plan is approved, Box Elder would design and expand Mall Drive east toward the Flying J truck stop. Additionally, most of the service road running parallel to I-90 from Ellsworth Air Force Base to Rapid City would be demolished. A small stretch along Exit 63 would be preserved to allow access to a new section of Mall Drive.  

To read more about transportation infrastructure in western South Dakota, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive

Published in News

The South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority (SDEDA) donated $500,000 worth of land, and KTM Design Solutions and Scull Construction donated staff and work time to assist Box Elder in building a new sports complex. According to a Rapid City Journal article, the complex will feature baseball, softball, and soccer fields and will be located next to Vandenberg Elementary School.

The SDEDA still needs to raise approximately $5 million. Fundraising efforts are expected to begin at the end of September, with the goal being reached within two years.

For more news on Box Elder, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's online news archives.

Published in News

President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Black Hills in early June 1953, although the precise dates have been difficult to pin down. There is a newspaper article dated June 11 reporting a Rapid City parade and Eisenhower's dedication and renaming of Ellsworth Air Force Base on June 13

A collection of undated photos in the South Dakota State Archives document his arrival, the parade and a speech at Mount Rushmore. According to this account from Custer State Park Resort, Eisenhower's stayed at the Custer State Park Game Lodge for three days. He was the second president to stay there, following Calvin Coolidge who spent the summer in 1927.

According to the Custer State Park Resort website: "In 1953, the park was again home to a President. President Eisenhower, on a visit to the Black Hills for a speaking engagement, stayed in the State Game Lodge. The visit lasted only three days, but as an indication of how times had changed, it occasioned even greater preparations for the lodge with tighter security, an extensive communications system, and a far bigger crowd of secret service agents, staff members, and reporters. 

"Activities at the lodge that week included several formal dinners and speeches, but Eisenhower also took the opportunity to spend as much time as he could fishing for trout in the pools of French Creek."

A room at the lodge is now named for Eisenhower, as is one for Coolidge.

At his dedication of Ellsworth Air Force Base, Eisenhower honored Brig. Gen. Richard Ellsworth, who had died during a mission three months prior. 

He said: "We are met here in tribute to a gallant and patriotic American, a man whose name will always be an inspiration to the members of his family and his loved ones, his friends, to the members of his garrison, to all the Armed Services, and to Americans everywhere. It is now my very great honor to dedicate this great base in memory of Brigadier General Richard Ellsworth."

Published in Home

The 28th Munitions Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base performs a crucial support role to the B-1 bomber aircraft and pilots that have been called a key piece of the nation's military efforts against terrorists in the Middle East, reports KOTA-TV

The 240 squadron members conduct detailed inspections of equipment, produce practice bombs and complete other duties. The squadron's work is the foundation of training done by the B-1 crews when not deployed on a mission. 

In 2015, Ellsworth’s 28th Bomb Wing crews dropped more than 7,000 bombs on terrorist targets in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. That would not have been possible without the work of the 28th Munitions Squardron. 

Read more about Veterans and Military Affairs on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


Published in News
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 00:00

EAFB Airmen Return From Deployment

About 350 U.S. Air Force airmen returned home from a six-month deployment in the Middle East, reports KOTA-TV and Ellsworth Air Force Base

Hundreds of family members greeted the airmen as their plane landed after six months of B-1 bomber combat operations in what the military refers to as "the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility." 

B-1 bombers from EAFB have been credited as a key part of the U.S. military's ongoing war efforts in the Middle East. 

Read more about Ellsworth Air Force Base on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


Published in News

The B-1 bombers housed at Ellsworth Air Force Base are called the "backbone" of the U.S. military's air fleet and a "mainstay" in the ongoing wars in the Middle East, reports the Washington Post

Headlined "The underappreciated workhorse of America’s air wars," the article quotes members of the military who have worked with the B-1, including pilots who call the aircraft "the Bone" and themselves "Bone drivers." Those sources praise the B-1's capabilities, from its endurance to its large payload, while the report notes the B-1 has been underappreciated by prominent critics, including U.S. Sen. John McCain

The B-1 has provided close air support since kicking off the Iraq war in 2003 with the shock and awe campaign in Baghdad that ultimately failed to kill Saddam Hussein to the current fight against the Islamic State in Syria in Iraq, during which the B-1 is credited with driving the terrorist group's fighters out of Kobane, Syria, and Tikrit, Iraq. 

Read more about Ellsworth Aire Force Base on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


Published in News
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 00:00

B1's Drop 5,000 Bombs In Terror War

B-1 bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base have dropped more than 5,000 bombs in the military campaign against the terror group in Syria and Iraq known as the Islamic State, reports the Rapid City Journal

The bombers have been part of an escalated campaign that began sometime in October, the EAFB commander said during a public presentation on Nov. 20. Bombers from Ellsworth have been deployed to combat the Islamic State throughout 2015. 

The commander said that Ellsworth's two bomb squadron's have been rotating six-month deployments with a third squadron from a Texas base, meaning about 500 of Ellsworth's 4,000 employees have been deployed at any given point during 12 out of 18 months.

Read more about Ellsworth Air Force Base on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


Published in News

Col. Gentry Boswell has taken over as Base Commander from Col. Kevin Kennedy at Ellsworth Air Force Base, according to South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Recently stationed at the Pentagon, Col. Boswell has spent time working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and looks forward to working on the Ellsworth base again. He spent over a third of his military career on the base and is a former vice commander of the 28th Bomb Wing. Boswell hopes to continue building the unique community relationship Ellsworth has with the surrounding community.

Boswell is a B-1 weapon systems officer with more than 4,500 flight hours, with 500 combat hours flown in missions over the Balkans, the Horn of Africa and Southwest Asia, according to the news release announcing his command.

He takes command of the base at a time when its Airmen are heavily engaged in a demanding period with large Air Expeditionary Force deployments. Currently, the Wing is executing 18 consecutive months of B-1 deployments and ongoing MQ-9 (drone) operations. Ellsworth Airmen have been deployed heavily in a multitude of global combat operations since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom 14 years ago.

Col. Boswell does not expect another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round to affect the Ellsworth base anytime in the near future, he told SDPB.

For more information, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s Resource Page or archive.

Published in News
Thursday, 09 April 2015 00:00

Four Vie For Box Elder Mayor Job

Four men are running for Box Elder in the April 14 election, reports KEVN TV. The four aired their views at a recent forum hosted by the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce.

Three-year incumbent William Griffiths Sr. faces challengers Michael Hanson, Larry Larson and Mark Coatney.

Griffiths touts his experience with the U.S. Air Force and his record recruiting new businesses to town during his tenure. Hanson says he has experience with planning and zoning and the chamber of commerce. Larson said he would bring experience from a school board and as a teacher and administrator. Coatney said he wants to be a voice for the people. 

Read more about Box Elder on the Black Hills Knowledge Network.

Watch the complete report below.


Published in News

In a "State of Ellsworth" address, Ellsworth Air Force Base Commander Col. Kevin Kennedy said that across-the-board spending cuts imposed by Congress continue to strain military budgets, including that at Ellsworth, South Dakota Public Radio reported.

In 2013, those cuts known as "sequestration" under the Budget Control Act, grounded the B-1 bombers for several months. If the cuts remain in place as a new fiscal year begins in October 2015, Kennedy said that would have "significant impacts" on Ellsworth Air Force Base. 

Kennedy focused on moderization efforts throughout the military and on the missions Ellsworth crews have completed, according to a report by Ellsworth staff. Since April 2014, base B-1 aircrews completed 381 combat missions totaling more than 3,700 combat hours and 946 training missions spanning 3,128 hours. 

Read more about Veterans & Military Affairs on the Black Hills Knowledge Network


Published in News

Newly elected senator Mike Rounds on Wednesday obtained a pledge from the probable nominee for Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, to maintain the B-1 bomber fleet. According to the Rapid City Journal article, it would mean more support for the continued maintenance, parts replacements, and upgrades of the fleet in the future.

To check out recent news of Ellsworth Air Force Base, check out this archives page.

For more information on EAFB itself, click on this homepage link.

Published in News

Marking the largest exapnsion of "special use airspace" in the nation's history, the U.S. Air Force has approved expansion of the Powder River Traning Complex for use by airmen at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Box Elder and Rapid City, the Black Hills Pioneer reports

The training complex will now encompass 20.3 million acres over Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. If the FAA also signs off on the expansion, it will quadruple the training space for Ellsworth personnel. 

Opponents and critics have warned the training missions, some as low as 500 feet above ground, would disrupt the rural and agricultural lifestyles and interfere with civilian airspace use. Military officials have vowed to limit the training to certain hours and to keep disruptive air maneuvers to a handful of days per year. 

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has advocated for the expansion, saying it will better prepare pilots to engage in missions over Afghanistan and that the move would save the military $23 million annually in fuel costs, since planes would not have to fly greater distances to train. Read Sen. Thune's full press release online. 


Published in News

Communities in the Black Hills dominate the list of those with the highest rates of uninsured residents, while communities surrounding Sioux Falls boast South Dakota's lowest rates of residents lacking health insurance, according to newly updated federal data. 

Three of the five communities with the highest rates are in the Black Hills. See the complete list plus interactive charts and graphs on the South Dakota Dashboard's Health Insurance Coverage page

 Belle Fourche  21.3%
 Lead  21.1%
 Winner  20.7%
 Milbank  18.2%
 Hot Springs  17%

Other Black Hills communities, among South Dakota's most populous 27 municipalities, have high rates of uninusred - No. 6 Box Elder, 16.6%; No. 7 Spearfish, 15.4%; No. 8 Rapid City, 15.1%, and No. 10 Sturgis, 14.4%. 

The five communities with the lowest rates of uninured are all in southeast South Dakota. (The figures are averages for the years 2009-2013.) 

 Tea  3.4%
 Dell Rapids  4.3%
 Harrisburg  6.9%
 Brandon  7.1%
Canton 7.6%

When looking at the state's three metropolitan areas and nine micropolitan areas, the Aberdeen micropolitan area (Brown and Edmunds counties) stands out as having the lowest rate of uninsured residents, at 8.1% for 2009-2013. The Spearfish micropolitan area (Lawrence County) has the highest rate, 17%. (To see the complete list, choose the "By metropolitan and micropolitan areas" option from the Breakdown drop-down menu on the graph linked to above.)

Among South Dakota's nine Indian reservations, the Yankton reservation has the lowest rate of uninsured, at 25.9%, while the Crow Creek reservation has the highest rate, 54.7%. (Access to federal Indian Health Service care is not considered to be health insurance.)

When looking at racial/ethnic groups, American Indians have the highest rate of being uninsured - 36.9% - while non-Hispanic whites claim the lowest - 10.1 %. These rates compare to the rates for Hispanics (29%) and blacks (16.6%) and Asians (17.6%). 

The rate of uninsured, under age 65, for the entire state of South Dakota is 13.7%, below the national rate of 16.7%. 


Published in Home

Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels toured the new $24 million wastewater treatment plant built to serve Ellsworth Air Force Base and the city of Box Elder.

On Thursday, Sept. 11, the pair joined Box Elder Mayor William F. Griffiths and South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority Executive Director Scott Landguth to tour the plant which began operations in July.

The development authority owns the plant and contracts with the Air Force base and the city of Box Elder, then uses those payments to pay down bonds. The project includes a five-mile line from the Air Force base to the plant.

The plant is one of the development authority's major projects after the South Dakota Legislature created the authority in 2009 with the mission to make South Dakota a good place for Ellsworth Air Force Base to operate.

Read more about the Ellsworth Development Authority online and read more about Ellsworth AFB on the Black Hills Knowledge Network.

Published in Home

As World War II engulfed Europe and Asia in 1941, the United States readied its defenses by establishing new military bases in the interior of the country. Rapid City Air Force Base trained crews to fly B-17 Flying Fortress airplanes and became home to the 88th Bombardment Group and the 17th Bombardment Training Wing in October of 1942. Between 1942 and 1945, approximately 8,500 military pilots, radio operators, gunners and navigators rotated through the new facility.

As the tide of the war turned in 1944, the mission of the Rapid City Air Force Base changed. The new B-29 bomber had been developed to fly long range bombing runs over Japan. Crews had to be trained for these missions. In August 1945, soon after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

The Cold War Mission

Many temporary bases around the country were closed or refurbished for peacetime uses after the war. The Rapid City Air Force Base trained weather reconnaissance and combat squadrons until September of 1946. The base was deactivated for a short period, and then reactivated in March 1947 as the home of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance United States Air Force. Crews at the Rapid City continued training on B-29 Superfortress airplanes.

In 1948, the air force base became the Rapid City Facility Weaver Air Force Base to honor Brigadier General Walter R. Weaver who had been instrumental in the development of the Air Force. But the public never embraced the new name, and the facility’s name reverted to Rapid City Air Force Base. Rapid City Air Force Base was declared a “permanent installation” in 1948.

Salaries paid to officers, airmen and civilians employed at the base added nearly $8.6 million to the local economy by 1950.

In 1953 a Rapid City RB-36 airplane crashed in Newfoundland, taking with it the lives of 23 crew members, amongst them Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was the commander of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. On June 13th of that year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower came to Rapid City to dedicate the base in Ellsworth’s memory.

Minute Man II Control Panel SD Air Space Museum

During the Cold War, there were national security requirements put in place with the Strategic Air Command Headquarters replacing the B-36 airplanes with B-52 Stratofortresses in 1957. In the 1960s, Ellsworth Air Force Base entered the “Space Age” with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and Minuteman I and Minuteman II missiles being placed at Ellsworth. Because of this, Ellsworth AFB became known as “The Showplace of SAC” (Strategic Air Command) maintaining strategic bombers and ICBMs for more than 20 years without a lot of change on base.

Defense in Post-Cold War Era

The 1980s brought many changes to the air force base. In 1986 Ellsworth stopped using the older B-52 airplane fleet and began using the more technologically advanced B-1 Lancer. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ellsworth permanently pulled one of its missiles from its silo, marking the end of an era. The 44th Missile Wing was declared inactive in 1994. With the Cold War ended the Strategic Air Command was deactivated by the Air Force and Ellsworth Air Force Base was reassigned to the Air Combat Command.

Throughout the 90s the base was transitioned to new military missions. Ellsworth’s 28th Bomb Wing during Operation Desert Storm deployed both tanker and airborne command posts during from August 1990 – March 1991. In December 1998 the 28th Bomb Wing deployed B-1 airplanes and over 400 personnel to assist in Operation Desert Fox in Kuwait and Iraq. These B-1 airplanes were the first to drop bombs on an enemy target during Operation Desert Fox.

After the events of the September 11th attacks, the 28th Bomb Wing deployed a number of B-1B aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom which began on October 1st, 2001. Ellsworth Air Force Base B-1 crews have flown 48 percent of combat missions during the War in Afghanistan. The 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons were deployed to undisclosed locations from Ellsworth to assist with Operation Iraqi Freedom, also known as the Iraq War. On March 30th, 2011, the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth carried out the first ever B-1 global strike mission from the United States. The crews of the 28th Bomb Wing launched from Ellsworth AFB and struck targets in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The public can now tour the command station for one of the

former nuclear missiles on Ellsworth Air Force Base.

(South Dakota Air and Space Museum photo)


Lt. Col. Barry Hutchinson 28th Bomb Wing Chief of Plans records readings at refuel of B-1 Bomber Ellsworth Realignment and Closure

In 1995, Ellsworth Air Force Base was chosen for BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure).

The Department of Defense, in selecting military installations for closure or realignment, giving priority considerations to the military value (the first four criteria below) will consider:

  1. Current and future mission capabilities

  2. Availability and condition of land, facilities and associated airspace at both existing and potential receiving locations

  3. Ability to accommodate contingency, mobilization, surge and future total force requirements

  4. Cost of operations and manpower implications


Lt. Col. Barry Hutchinson, 28th Bomb Wing chief of plans,

records control readings during a hot pit refuelof a B-1bomber

at Ellsworth Air Force Bas Feb. 12, 2013. Hot pit refueling,

usually performed in a combat environment, is a carefully controlled

processduring which two engines continue running, which reduces

maintenance turn time for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Other considerations include:

  1. Extent and timing of potential costs and savings, savings must exceed costs

  2. Economic impact on existing communities in the vicinity of military installations

  3. Ability of the infrastructure of the base to support forces, missions and personnel

  4. Environmental impact including restoration, waste management and environmental compliance activities

Senator Tom Daschle and Al Cornella, a business owner in Rapid City, advocated against it. Senator Daschle recommended Mr. Cornella for the Base Closing Panel that would decide if Ellsworth was to stay open. The panel decided against closing Ellsworth Air Force Base.

In 2003, the state of South Dakota closed Exit 66 and moved the exit down one mile to create Exit 67A and 67B. The exit change helped keep commercial development away from Ellsworth’s runways. It was hoped that the exit move would help deter Ellsworth from being named in the next round of base closings in 2005.

Ellsworth Air Force Base was again included in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process. South Dakota rallied to support for the base and argued successfully that Ellsworth played an important part in the nation’s defense. Ellsworth was removed from the BRAC list before it went to Congress.

In 2006, the United States Air Force decided to make Ellsworth Air Force Base home to the Air Force Financial Services Center (AFFSC). The AFFSC was opened on September 14, 2007, and provides customer service and support to over 385,000 active duty, reserve military and civilian customers throughout the world. The AFFSC is responsible for processing temporary and permanent duty travel and military pay transactions. The AFFSC employs 775 Airmen and civilians. Its mission is “to deliver responsive, world-class, 24/7 financial services and to deploy skilled warriors supporting global operations.”

The MQ-9 squadron was activated in 2012 and flew its first combat mission in November of that year. In 2010, Air Force officials chose Ellsworth Air Force Base as the site of the MQ-9 ground control station. The MQ-9 Reaper remote piloted aircraft or drone provides the United States Air Force the ability to strike emerging targets and acts as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset. Although the squadron that operates the drones is located at Ellsworth, the drones themselves are located overseas supporting global operations.

Today, the base continues to serve:

  • As the home of the 28th Bomb Wing, flying B-1B Lancers and providing all essential base operating services for that group

  • As the site of the MQ-9 drone ground control station

  • As home to the Air Force Financial Services Center

Published in Issues Hub
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