Vice President Mike Pence had two words of ammunition for military personnel when he spoke Wednesday at Grand Forks Air Force Base: "Stay ready."
"Bring your very best to this enterprise," he said. "Mind your mission. Mind your people, because here at the Air Force base, you are doing work that is providing security for the greatest nation in the history of the world."
About 100 service members listened intently to the vice president's 10 1/2 -minute speech, cheering and applauding as Pence recognized the importance of the 319th Air Base Wing's main mission--using Global Hawk unmanned aircraft for high-altitude intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance around the world.
Pence touched down at the base about 2 p.m. Wednesday, with U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., at his side as they exited the plane. After greeting North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and others, Pence spent half an hour greeting personnel who had been waiting for him to land.
After staying on the tarmac for about 20 minutes, Pence left in a motorcade headed to Grand Forks for a Cramer fundraising event at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Pence spent most of his speech thanking the base's personnel for their service, noting the use of Global Hawks and discussing the Trump Administration's efforts to strengthen the military. The servicemembers have a champion in President Donald Trump, Pence said as he touted a nearly $700 billion annual defense policy bill signed into law earlier this year.
"President Trump and I are truly grateful, truly grateful every day for the work each and every one of you do," Pence said. "We believe that your mission to support ... fighters around the globe has never been more important for the security of our nation and the safety of our people. This was the first time Col. Benjamin Spencer, the base's commander, was able to brief Pence on his service members' work at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The colonel wanted the audience to appreciate the significance of the vice president's visit, which was "huge for morale" on the base, Spencer said.
"I've only seen three of these visits in 24 years: two presidents and one vice president," the commander said of his career in the military. "I told all young airmen to not take this visit for granted because they could serve 20, 25 years in the Air Force and maybe not see a vice president or president visit an Air Force base."
Pence said his visit was meant to pay a debt of gratitude to Grand Forks Air Force Base.
"America is proud of the 319th," he said.
Cramer, Burgum, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and others also were present for the base speech.
Pence spoke in October to military members at Minot Air Force Base. He also stumped in March for Cramer during a visit to Fargo.
This article is written by April Baumgarten from Grand Forks Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.