SOME OF OUR DOINGS SINCE OCS

 

SOME OF OUR DOINGS SINCE OCS
(Submitted March 7, 2003)

Graduated OCS 20 June 1958, assigned to USAF Radar Maintenance Officer's Course at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, a 52-Week effort in circuit-chasing several different kinds of radar sets. This was my first choice of assignments after graduation so I was happy about that. Throughout OCS my wife, Edna, was pregnant with our second daughter. Upon graduation, she was due to deliver so we made a quick dash to Keesler from Lackland, then the delivery was late. Our daughter, Elizabeth Ann, was born at Keesler AFB Hospital on July 14, 1958. Her birthday was 7-14, she weighed 7 lbs. 14 ozs., she was born at 7:14 a.m., and was 21 inches long.

Throughout the time we were in OCS, my wife and our first daughter, Vicki, lived in Billy Mitchell Village. Prior to entering OCS we were stationed at Kelly AFB, with the USAF Security Service, and were living in Kelly Base Housing, so they knew the area fairly well. That helped some when I had to live in the barracks for six months. Kelly AFB and Lackland AFB at that time were separated by nothing more than a chain link fence so it seemed a shame to have to move out of our home just to go to OCS but, you know, the Air Force does have its procedures.

Graduated from the Radar Maintenance Officer's course in July 1959 and was assigned to Air Defense Command, Montgomery Air Defense Sector, Gunter AFB, Montgomery, Alabama as Radar Maintenance Officer. This Air Defense Sector was Air Defense Command's Test Bed for BOMARC Missiles and Frequency Diversity Radars. A very interesting and most enlightening tour. Each Air Defense Sector Headquarters building in those days housed two IBM mainframe computers, model AN/FSQ-1. The buildings were square, 300 feet wide on each side; it took one floor to house two of these machines. Two machines contained ten thousand vacuum tubes. This was in the days before even the transistor was invented.

In October 1962, assigned to the NATO Radar Site at Samsun, Turkey. Performed duties of Squadron Electronics Maintenance Officer and Communications Officer until January 1964 at this remote assignment. Upon rotation to the U.S., was assigned to the 1035th USAF Field Activities Group, a unit of HQS, USAF, which was also known as the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) with Headquarters on Telegraph Road in Alexandria, Virginia and attended a 6-months long Course at Lowry AFB, Colorado on some of their equipment. This organization operates the United States Atomic Energy Detection System, some of which has now been declassified. In the summer of 1964 was assigned as Detachment Commander at their unit at Larson AFB, Moses Lake, Washington, arriving there just as the base closure was announced. Moved the unit to Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington in the summer of 1965.

In the summer of 1966 was assigned as USAF Liaison Officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Manitoba, Canada. Spent two years living in northern Manitoba. Coldest temperature recorded was 52 degrees below zero with an eleven knot wind. As I recall, the wind chill went off the bottom of our chart at 89 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. My family and I were the only Americans in the area and I must say we were treated royally by the Canadians. They are a most hospitable and friendly (and sometimes wild and wacky) people.

Transferred in the summer of 1968 to Headquarters, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Telegraph Road, Alexandria, Virginia. Enjoyed four years there until the unit was moved in the summer of 1972 to Patrick AFB, Florida. At that time I elected to move instead to Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado to be in charge of the technical training effort for AFTAC. We enjoyed Denver for five years before reassignment orders were received to return to Washington, D.C. to work in the basement of the Pentagon. It was to be a great job and I know it would have been a good assignment except that I knew the price of real estate in the area from our previous tour there and the prospects of living in a high-rise apartment on the Shirley Highway and riding a bus to work, plus a lot of travel; at that time I opted for early retirement in lieu of transfer and retired effective September 30, 1977.

In February 1978 I arrived in Teheran, Iran to work with a major Iranian construction company on the Iranian government's nationwide telephone expansion program. The program contract was to last four years and was to expand the telephone system in fifty-five cities in Iran. Work was underway in seven cities when the national revolution which overthrew the government stopped all work and forced all foreigners out of the country. I left Iran on a C-141 to Athens, Greece on January 30, 1979. The next day I flew to Denver, Colorado where we had a home at the time. The following day, February 1st, I was watching on TV news as Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Teheran from Paris and took over control of the government. I will be eternally grateful to the C-141 crews from Charleston AFB, South Carolina who volunteered to make all those flights from Athens to Teheran and back during those fateful days. I just knew Doyle Cooter was somewhere in there. There was no other way out of Iran at that time. I did not even object when the U. S. government charged me for the flight. They said it was not a Space Available flight, to which I was entitled for free as a retiree. They just took the money right out of my retirement pay.

In April 1979 I arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to work with Parsons and Fluor-Daniel Construction companies on their Joint Venture to manage construction and activation of the new international airport in Jeddah. In the summer of 1980 I was hired by the Arabian-American Oil Company to work with their maintenance organizations on acquiring and implementing a new computerized industrial maintenance management system in the oil company.

That work and the follow-on occupied the next several years and I received mandatory retirement from that company in June 1993.

Aside from learning a lot about the oil and gas production business, one of the most interesting aspects of that job was being caught right in the middle of the Gulf War. At the beginning of the buildup of forces in August 1990, after Iraq took over Kuwait, it seemed as if we were going to have a seat on the 50-yard line at the battle of Armageddon. Before it was over, when the SCUD and Patriot missiles were falling into our community, we discovered that our seats were on the 50-yard line alright but not in the stands. We were in the middle of the playing field. The irony of being involved in a shooting war so many years after retiring from a military career kept occurring to me at odd moments. An even stranger aspect of this situation was that my wife was there, so we were going through the war together. She volunteered to stay also and spent many long hours after her normal working hours helping to process other wives and children out of the country for the duration.

One of the most unsettling aspects of the missiles falling in and around our house was the fact that just in back of our community, a few hundred yards away, an old open-pit limestone quarry was being used as an ammunition storage area by the U. S. forces. By December the quarry contained six hundred thousand tons of high explosives. I kept trying not to think about what would happen if a SCUD warhead landed there. We lived in Dhahran and in December when the military started moving westward for their "end around" play behind the Iraqis, military low-boy trucks were hauling loads of high explosive ammunition out of the old quarry day and night, 24-hours a day. I will never forget the huge lettering stenciled on their front bumpers. It read, "AMMO DOGS". Another sign I will always remember was alongside the main road heading south from Dhahran. It was hand-lettered, you could tell it was hastily made, and said, "ADOPT A HIGHWAY, NEXT 40 MILES, 82nd AIRBORNE". They were patrolling the highway in Humvees with mounted .50 Caliber machine guns.

Before the ground war started, from August to December, and after it was over, literally thousands of GIs were bused into our community from their desert outposts for home-cooked meals, phone calls home, hot showers, and laundering of their combat fatigues. Some just wanted to walk through a small patch of grass in our front yard in their bare feet. You know how it is when you haven't seen a blade of grass or any other kind of vegetation for weeks.

When the Iraqis dynamited the Kuwaiti oil wells in February 1991 before they left Kuwait, the smoke blew in our direction steadily for weeks turning everything black; the grass, trees, the birds, some days it was so dark the street lights came on in the middle of the day. It was November before the last fire was extinguished. Those were some very dark days in more ways than one.

After leaving Saudi Arabia we returned to our home in Denver and have subsequently returned to our home town in South Carolina to look after Edna's Dad, who was then in his nineties and could no longer look after himself. I did spend several months in Houston, working on a project with some friends to build a Sulphur Recovery Module for a new offshore oil production platform being built for installation in Lake Maricaibo by Shell Oil of Venezuela.

Life has been great so far and we have had a lot of fun and some heartaches along the way. We look forward to more fun and probably some more heartaches in the future. When you are fortunate enough to have grandchildren getting ready to go to college, life can't be all bad.

 

John R. Hayes