February 23, 2021
In 2005, Ellsworth Air Force Base was selected for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). South Dakota came together and fought tirelessly to make sure the Department of Defense understood the critical role Ellsworth AFB plays in our national security. Since then, our local military forces have been making records with their excellence and their unwavering impact in conflicts and humanitarian missions across the globe. The importance of South Dakota National Guard and Ellsworth AFB to national defense has been reaffirmed through increased operational demands and, most recently, the placement of the B-21 training mission at Ellsworth AFB.
As Rapid City prepares for the anticipated growth around Ellsworth and the local defense economy, there is often a lot of talk about the economic impact of the base. We know the military industry has a million dollar a day impact between direct and indirect payroll, construction, and job creation. That impact will only get larger in the near future. While the growth and opportunities are exciting, the real story of impact often gets lost in the numbers.
The Black Hills is the proud home of more than 4,000 military members between the South Dakota National Guard and Ellsworth AFB. These members and their families are your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and peers. And while they are stationed in South Dakota either through active-duty Air Force or the National Guard, the desire is for them to feel at home: to find houses they love, engage in schools and organizations, find and grow in employment, and know they have a community that understands and supports the unique needs of the military.
While COVID-19 forced many to disengage, the Black Hills community took the opportunity to reflect and strategically analyze how it could better meet the needs of these military members and families living here. Organizations such as the Elevate Rapid City Military Affairs Committee, Ellsworth Task Force, South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority, Embrace the Base, Honorary Commanders, Civic Leaders, and Society of Military Engineers joined forces to find a way of streamlining information and better using resources in support of local military.
The result of these conversations led to the creation of the Black Hills Military Advisory Coalition. The goal of this newly formed BHMAC is to be the unified voice strengthening the connections between the military and regional communities. Community leaders now have an avenue to meet regularly with military leaders to discuss ways the community can best support military members. The work of the Coalition will take place in three Pillars: Quality of Life, Community Outreach, Defense Economy. In addition to several legacy events, such as the Military Appreciation Pig Roast, there are also new opportunities for focused work on specific initiatives regarding military needs.
South Dakotans are known for being patriotic and the generous support of the military. Through the BHMAC community members can now engage directly in initiatives and networking opportunities that directly support these men and women of the military. The economic impact of the military is important and impressive. But at the end of the day, what matters most is not the numbers but the people who sacrifice so much to defend our Nation.
Those interested in learning more about getting involved with the BHMAC can click here.