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20th Air Force commander visits New Town for first EIS hearing

  • Published
  • By Air Force Global Strike Public Affairs
  • 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force hosted the first of seven public hearings in New Town of the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, on July 19, 2022.


As an integral part of the National Environmental Protection Act, the purpose of the public hearings are to seek comments on the publicly released (July 1) draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Sentinel (formerly known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD) basing action and Minuteman III demilitarization at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota.


"These public hearings are intended to provide the public the opportunity to understand and comment on the potential environmental consequences of the proposed Sentinel (GBSD) weapon system, which will modernize and replace Minuteman III flight systems, weapon system command and control, and launch systems including silos, control centers, and other ground infrastructure,” said Russell Bartholomew, a Program Manager assigned to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Sentinel Systems Directorate at Hill AFB, Utah. "It's an honor to start the hearings here at the Fort Berthold Reservation, given the long military history between the U.S. military and Three Affiliated Tribes."


Bartholomew went on to explain that the TAT refers to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, located in central North Dakota.


A small ceremony took place ahead of the public hearing, in which Mark Fox, Chairman of the TAT and Maj. Gen. Michael Lutton, Twentieth Air Force commander, spoke about the significance of the event and exchanged gifts.


“We described this nation, Fort Berthold, how we got to today and many of the things that they now know,’ said Fox. “ I shared many things about our history and things of that nature.”


Lutton echoed Fox’s sentiments and provided some additional details of the history of the relationship.


"The Three Affiliated Tribes all have direct historic ties to the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800s,” Lutton said. “From the Corps of Discovery, who encamped among the Mandan Nation in the winter of 1804 up until today, the U.S. military has maintained good relations with these Nations for more than 200 years. We are honored to be here today as we take the necessary steps under the NEPA process to continue to build on our positive rapport and work together to secure America’s future through this proposed Sentinel project.” 


Lutton further explained the mission of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was to seek out a passage to the Pacific Ocean via the Missouri River, to survey and scout the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, to make contact with the various American Indian peoples they met along the way, and (for those within the Missouri River watershed) to inform them of their incorporation into the United States. He shared that each time Corps of Discovery made contact with a new population, there would be gift exchanges, speeches, ceremonial smoking, drill and arms demonstrations, and dancing.


In keeping with this tradition, approximately 50 attendees witnessed a Presentation of the Colors by the TAT Nation veterans and a ceremonial dance by The TAT Nation ladies auxiliary.


The Air Force plans to hold six additional in-person public hearings on the following dates at the local times and locations indicated.