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Grand Forks Air Force Base upgrades security

The main gate at Grand Forks Air Force Base is closed on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 while contractors upgrade the gate's active vehicle barrier system as part of a $2.3 million construction project. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS—Grand Forks Air Force Base is in the midst of a $2.3 million construction project that base officials say is aimed to bolster security at the base's two main vehicle entrances.

Started on April 9, renovations are being made to the main gate and commercial gate—the main vehicle entrances at the base.

"This is primarily an infrastructure upgrade for us," said Lt. Col. Edward Liberman, deputy commander of the 319th mission support group.

Currently, the project is in the first of three phases and construction is focusing on building a larger and updated guard shack at the front gate. Renovations will include heating and ventilation, electrical and communication updates and are expected to be complete mid- to late June.

Desk Sgt. Jennifer Cruz said gate guards often work shifts from 8 to 12 hours.

"The biggest change will be for us as far as how we deal with day to day," she said. Most notably, she said guards will have more room to move around and work efficiently and the new renovations will allow for warmer conditions during North Dakota's harsh winters.

"It improves the quality of life for our gate guards, for our defenders there," said Master Sgt. Amanda Callahan, superintendent of public affairs.

The second phase of the project will replace the active vehicle barrier system at the main gate-- or simply, the mechanical gate that stops cars from entering the base once they have passed the initial entrance. Liberman said this is an effort that will shut down the gate while it is being replaced, and it is expected to be completed in mid-July. Once this is done, the project will move into the final phase and crews will work to replace the active vehicle barrier system at the commercial gate, following the same process. This final phase of the project is to be completed by mid- to late October, Liberman said.

"It's an opportunity to improve some old infrastructure," said Liberman, "North Dakota winters can be kind of tough on infrastructure. We have to upgrade it just to ensure it's reliable and provide our airmen the tools they need to do their job."

The base's current active vehicle barrier system is about 13 to 14 years old, he said. Because they are mechanical systems, he said the base makes sure to replace them before they fail, which could cause a breach in security at the base.

Each year, Liberman said the air base submits projects to the Air Force inflation and mission support center in a bid for funding. Liberman said this year, this was a top infrastructure project and the funding ultimately comes from Air Force centralized funding.

"I think it's a great upgrade to our infrastructure. It adds to the security, it provides the airmen reliable infrastructure, so we're excited," Liberman said.