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Minnesota National Guard
$37.2 million National Guard helicopter base will help maintain fleet

With the snip of a ribbon, National Guard helicopters will have a new home

The new Minnesota National Guard Aviation Support Facility will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 pm today Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters will be maintained and repaired at the facility, one of two such facilities in the state Training also will take place at the base, which is near St Cloud Regional Airport

The $372 million facility is more than 140,000 square feet and sits on 52 acres of land There are eight parking pads for helicopters outside the building

"But we can get more than that" on the pads, National Guard Maj Shawn Manke said

The new building will be a regional center for National Guard Aviation teams It will house six Black Hawk and six Chinook helicopters

The facility will employ 60 people, including Soldiers, building maintenance and security staff National Guard Lt John Hobot said the average salary is $50,000 per year

Some people have moved to the area to work at the facility, Manke said

A third of the Soldiers working at the facility are deployed in Iraq and will be back in May, Hobot said So the building won't be fully up and running until summer, he said

Once it's fully operational, there will be two to three flights per day coming and going from the base Hobot said it's hard to say what the pattern of the flights will be, but the site will be a regional launch point for the helicopters

Manke said most of the work will be done Mondays through Fridays But some flights will be conducted during weekend drills

Most helicopters will be providing support throughout the state, such as Willmar and Mankato

Helicopters will be able to help in state emergencies such as search-and-rescue missions

The Black Hawk helicopters are in Iraq and four Chinook helicopters will be moved from St Paul to the St Cloud facility, Manke said Eventually the base will get two more Chinooks

Units operating at the facility are detachments from B and C Companies, 2nd General Aviation Support Battalion, 211th Aviation and the 834th Aviation Support Battalion

About 300 Soldiers will use the facility each month during drill weekends, bringing more people to the St Cloud area

The National Guard has said this will help the area's economy as people are brought to the area to do training exercises

The St Cloud facility and the St Paul facility at Holman Field provide support services to keep Minnesota National Guard aircraft mission ready

St Cloud was chosen because it is relatively near Camp Ripley, making it easier to get the helicopters to the base for training exercises

The base is separate from the commercial aviation section of the airport and has its own entrance and security

Kari Petrie "ยข St Cloud Times
March 18, 2009

Read more at sctimescom
March 16, 2009: Read the Minnesota National Guard press release.

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