Terry DeVine column: Air Museum planning to do things up Wright

The final touches are being put on a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer being built by dedicated members of the Fargo-Moorhead chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

The final touches are being put on a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer being built by dedicated members of the Fargo-Moorhead chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

The aircraft, first flown by the Wright Brothers on Dec. 17, 1903, will be ready for display Saturday night for a major unveiling at the Fargo Air Museum. The event, commemorating the 100th anniversary of flight, will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and features Darrell Collins, considered one of the top five aviation historians in the world and an expert on the Wright Brothers and their aviation exploits.

Collins is a U.S. park ranger who runs the museum at Kill Devil Hills, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, where the Wright Brothers made their first flight and changed the world forever.

Admission to Collins' talk, during which he will describe in detail what went into building the airplane, will be $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 5 to 12. Tickets may also be purchased in advance by calling the air museum at 293-8043.

The effort to build two copies of the Wright Flyer (one for the Minot, N.D., Air Museum) began in December 2000. In the ensuing three years, more than 100 dedicated students and craftsmen have labored in schools, basements, garages, workshops and hangars across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota to make the thousands of parts and pieces that make up the Wright Flyer. This past spring those parts and pieces began arriving at two hangars, one in Minot, the other in Casselton, N.D.


Chapter members Larry Stockert and Les Henningson put the final stitches in the final wing panel joint on the afternoon of Nov. 6. I'm told Collins' presentation is more than worth the price of admission, which will benefit the nonprofit air museum, which will permanently display the historic aircraft.

Battle in the evilest place

Lee Skramstad, an employee at Bearings & Drives in Fargo, brought my attention to an article, "Battle in the Evilest Place" in the Nov. 3 issue of Time magazine, which features his friend and former co-worker, Sgt. Allen Grenz of Fargo, a member of the Army's 1st Battalion, 87th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based in Afghanistan.

"I thought it was nice to see something about the fighting in Afghanistan, since now most of the news is regarding Iraq," says Skramstad in an e-mail. Grenz worked with him at Bearings & Drives before enlisting in the Army. He says Grenz, who e-mails his former co-workers occasionally, stops by to say hello whenever he gets to Fargo on leave. Grenz also worked at Larry's RV in Moorhead and 7th Avenue Auto Salvage in Fargo before enlisting.

The article reminds me that Iraq is not the only place in which the U.S. military is actively engaged against terrorists and al-Qaida.

On Sept. 29, two platoons of the 1st Battalion, based at the Shkin firebase, found themselves engaged in a 12-hour battle against a few dozen al-Qaida and Taliban guerrillas. It was the most fierce combat U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have seen in more than 18 months and Grenz was smack dab in the middle of it.

Grenz and his 1st Platoon, as well as the 2nd Platoon, were on patrol along the Pakistan border early on the morning of Sept. 29 when they came under attack by mortar fire.

Grenz, called in to reinforce the 2nd Platoon along with his men, began following a long, half-buried wire he discovered leading in one direction to where Army humvees were parked, and up a rough slope in another direction.


The Time article said:

"As he crests the hill, Grenz spots a rustle in underbrush. Crouched under a pine are three enemy fighters. It clicks in Grenz's brain that the wire, a blast cable, is leading straight up to the enemy. (Later the soldiers find that the wire was set to detonate five antitank mines buried under the humvees.) Grenz quickly absorbs the danger: one of the fighters is holding a detonator. Another is poised to hurl a grenade, and a third is leveling his weapon at Grenz. In the space of one, maybe two, seconds, Grenz squeezes off three shots with his M-16 rifle. He nails the first man in the forehead, the second in the right eye, the third in the stomach."

Sgt. Grenz was obviously paying attention when the Army taught him how to fire the M-16 in basic training. Skramstad told me that Grenz is such a good shot that he could take one's fingertip off at 300 meters. He certainly proved it on Sept. 29. More than 20 al-Qaida and Taliban fighters were killed in the firefight.

One soldier complained that Afghanistan has become a forgotten war. "Back home, nobody knows what's going on over here, how bad it is," he lamented. The fact is, it doesn't look like the war in Afghanistan will end anytime soon.

Sgt. Grenz will certainly have other opportunities to demonstrate his expert shooting abilities.

Now, we just need to get him back home in one piece, a challenging task in a very dangerous place.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or

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