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Old silo becomes historic site. (Airman's World).

WALL, S.D. - Seven years after closing the last of the Minuteman II missile sites near Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., the Air Force placed one of the missiles back into a silo.

Only this time it's not ready to launch. It's going to be a national historic site.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site near Wall will be open for the public to see a static display of a 76,000-pound, 59-foot, 10-inch Minuteman II. This missile was used for training during the Minuteman II program, but looks exactly like any other Minuteman II missile.

In November, the National Park Service will accept control of the static display missile, the silo and the launch control facility, a building that housed people and equipment to maintain the missile during its heyday. The site, including a visitors' center, is expected to open within three to five years, said Marianne Mills, acting manager for the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. She predicted that the center, missile display and silo would attract a million visitors a year.

Twenty-seven missile maintainers and support members traveled from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., to place the missile into the silo. The Minuteman II came from a depot at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

For some of the Warren maintainers, who were stationed at Ellsworth earlier in their careers, it was like welcoming an old friend back.

"I started my career at Ellsworth on this system," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Jones, a missile maintainer team chief from Warren. "I was there to deactivate the Minuteman II, so it was a great feeling to put one back."

"This site pays tribute to the many men and women, the unsung warriors, who work with little recognition, for all their hard work," said Col. Robert Mansfield, 90th Logistics Group commander from F.E. Warren.

"Whether or not you agree with American's nuclear deterrence policy, no one can deny the impact the Cold War has had on the lives of Americans for the last 50 years," said Tim Pavek, Minuteman II deactivation program manager at Eiisworth and one of the primary driving forces behind making the display a historic site. "One hundred and fifty of these missiles were on alert for 30 years and helped preserve the freedoms we enjoy today."

When opened, the site can be found at exit 131, Cactus Flat, on 1-90 outside of Wall on the South Dakota plains. The site already is a hit with one local.

"This is like a homecoming," said retired Tech. Sgt. Glenn Dieball, a Box Elder, S.D., resident who was a missile maintainer at Ellsworth in 1991. "I worked in this very silo. What they are doing here today is history in the making. This shows me that all of our hard work hasn't been forgotten."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Phillips, Melissa
Publication:Airman
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U4SD
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:469
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