Monday, July 27, 2009

The "Mole Hill"

In the early days of SAC, bomber and tanker crews pulled their alert duty primarily in an alert facility called the mole hill. Partially underground and partially above ground the "mole hill" resemble a half submerged cube with entry/exit arms radiating from its four sides. At the sound of the klaxon, the alert crews would scramble and race out the exits to either climb into the aircraft cockpits or load up into a waiting van to be taken to their aircraft. Malmstrom AFB had such a relic from SAC's past (KC-97 tankers) and it was the home of the 341st SMW's operations squadrons.

At the time that I was assigned to the 341st SMW, there was no active SAC flying unit on the base. There was; however, a unit comprising of old B-57s that flew as "targets" for the NORAD unit and the Montana National Guard F-106s stationed out of Great Falls' airport. Plus there was an air search and rescue helicopter squadron located on the base.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Arrival: It's Cold

Ray and I arrived at Malmstrom AFB in mid to late January 1981. All that I can remember of my arrival to Great Falls was the color white. Snow was everywhere. Ray and I split up due to our being assigned to separate squadrons. Ray was assigned to the 10th SMS and I to the 490th SMS. I would see Ray off and on, but we would eventually go our on separate way as we integrated into our new units.

Frank Zackery was my squadron commander. Terry Hunter was the squadron's Operation Officer. Both of them eased me and the other newbies into the system. T. J was to be my first Crew Commander. November 01 was to be my new "home" for the next year. More about life at November later. At that time, most of the 490th crew members were single. Whether by design or coincidence I don't know (the 490th's LCFs were generally the farthest distance from the base with exception to the 10th's Echo LCF.)

I believe that it was during the first week upon my arrival that I got a full taste of a Montana winter. The temperature dropped down to 40 below, no wind chill factor. My '78 Ford Elite said "screw it" and froze up on me, burst freeze plugs and all. I would eventually learn about engine block heaters, but for now I was on foot "bumming" rides to and from the squadron's offices.