Only the best come north

Community

Several spectators gather around a B-52H Stratofortress during the Northern Neighbors Day Air Show at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 13, 2016. With more than 12 thousand air show attendees, the Minot community expressed how appreciative they were of the base’s service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan McElderry)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

I was born in Georgia and raised in Alabama, known for their southern hospitality, long summers and moderate winters.

Needless to say, I’d never been this far north so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I learned I was coming to Minot, North Dakota.

It wasn’t long before I heard about Minot Air Force Base’s negative stereotype. When I told people I got orders here, all I heard was how “bad” it was going to be. Some even considered it to be the worst base in the Air Force.

Every time I asked if they had ever been here, the answers were always the same, “no”.

I wondered how someone could have an opinion of a place they’ve never even been to. I was determined to not let naysayers change my outlook, but admittedly, it was hard.

I kept reminding myself not to judge the base before seeing it for myself. Like the saying goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’.

Once I arrived, I realized Minot wasn’t nearly as bad as people assumed. Instead of the “dark and gloomy” atmosphere people told me about, I saw a normal military base.

When I got to the main gate last summer, a large glowing sign displayed, ‘Only The Best Come North’. I immediately wondered what the phrase meant. I soon realized the sign referred to the bond shared between the military and civilian community.

One of the first things I learned about Minot was the people here have a great demeanor about them. I was surprised how a base, and a town, with such a negative reputation was filled with such positive people.

These thoughts only strengthened as time passed.

Being in the Public Affairs career field, I’ve been able to connect with various people, not only at the base, but in the local community as well. I’ve had the chance to learn and share their stories while seeing what makes them who they are and why they love it here.

I’ve seen more than 10 military bases and out of all of them, Minot AFB has the best relationship with its surrounding community. The local community is so engaging and genuinely cares about what happens with the military members.

This was evident when I attended the 2016 North Dakota state fair on my second day here. Everyone at the fair was so happy and cheerful. It was a great environment to be in, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to this base and state.

Then came Minot’s air show event, Northern Neighbors Day 2016, which included more than 12 thousand attendees. The community expressed how happy they were to be there and how appreciative they were of Minot’s military members.

Several people walked up to me and thanked me for my service, even though I had been here less than a month. They didn’t care about that because, to them, I represented something greater, and that’s what truly mattered.

That was the moment when the reality hit home for me. Minot was nowhere near as bad as people assumed.

Another great aspect about the people here is how willing they are to help one another. Every time I’ve struggled with anything, other Airmen would go out of their way to help me, whether it was during training or simply answering questions, they’ve done so without hesitation.

When I first got here, all I could think about was how others tried to negatively influence my opinion. Ironically, the people here have actually influenced my opinion for the better.

I believe a base is defined by the individuals who belong to it. The polite people who genuinely care about each other are what make me want be here and to come to work every day.

Minot is proof of why people shouldn’t judge something before experiencing it for themselves.

Despite initially having a few doubts, being here for a year has convinced me to never go into a situation with a negative attitude because things are never as bad as others make them out to be.

Although North Dakota winters are about 100 degrees colder than the ones in Alabama, the people here make everything warmer by far. They showed me there is something positive to every situation, and Minot is a perfect example of that.