Alpha Seven

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Alpha Seven

Postby DSCOBLUE on Tue Jun 02, 2009 3:37 pm

By S. Darrell DuBose
(Originally written June 14, 1981)



The thing that really amazed me about North Dakota, besides the clean fresh air, was the land. The land was so flat in most areas that you could see for miles. I guess in my mind North Dakota would have always been one of those places you mostly read about in geography books. I mean really, if Uncle Sam had not stationed me here, I doubt if I would have come this far north on my own. Especially during the winters, it got cold up north; I’m not talking any twenty to thirty degrees cold either. Try minus zero on down, with something called the WIND CHILL FACTOR added for special attraction.

In D.C. and places like Chicago and Detroit, they called the wind during the fall and winter months the HAWK. We use to say that North Dakota invented the HAWK and sent small samples everywhere else. To tell you the truth though, I loved it. ND was a unique experience for me. I had lived in DC practically all my life and being Black and from the streets, I was totally unprepared for the great outdoors. I found some of the people to be as leery of me as I was of them. I really didn’t think it was a racial thing, they just didn’t have many Black folks in ND.

After my second year I started to feel at ease, not quite but pretty much. I was stationed at Minot AFB, the same name the town went by about 15 miles down the road. A big strapping metropolis the city was, some people said that before the base was built that the city was mostly a field of wheat. I tend to disagree, I’m certain I saw some corn growing near the Blacksmith’s shop. I was part of an elite group of Security Specialists assigned to the missile field. I provided a quick response to any alarms or security breaches in the launch area I was assigned to.

The nights in ND always fascinated me, there were so many stars in the sky they seemed to be close enough to touch. I saw my first shooting stars up north and I also saw the famous Northern Lights. I get a special feeling remembering that sight, I couldn’t believe seeing a spectacle like that. It was also on a clear, cold night in the winter of 1976 that I witnessed another unreal spectacle. With what and with whom I’ve never quite figured out, but facts are it was with something. It changed my life and what I believed in and I’ll never ever forget it.

That night in the missile field started like all the rest, a mad dash between me and my partner to see who could get to that old beat up lounge chair next to the heat. Alpha Control was one of the first LCF (LAUNCH CONTROL FACILITY) built in North Dakota, notoriously known for being down right chilly during the fall, not to mention winter months. It’s funny when I think about it, ND didn’t really have regular seasons like you or I would think of them. We used to say that there were only two seasons up north, frost and defrost. Each lasted about six months.

It had been snowing all night but the sky had cleared. Somewhere in the security reg., Airforce Manual 2-78, paragraph 3, lines A and B, there is suppose to be three people fully alert and standing by at all times. One flight controller and a SAT (SECURITY ALERT TEAM), which usually consisted of two people. The truth is, out there in the boonies we pretty much held back on the military décor. Don’t get me wrong, we did our job and were very professional about it, but we did it in a way that was pleasant for all and not too regimented. Most of the officers felt the same way, which made it even better.

It was easy to get overly serious doing this job. We tried to make it livelier for the newbees. Everybody knew what being 18 on a missile site during the Christmas holidays was like, especially your first time away from home. Anyway, I’m laying across the chair dreaming and snoring, all of the sudden that loud buzzer goes off. The one I hate to hear. Sgt. Brown comes in to the lounge looking semi-conscious. Hey Blue (MY NICKNAME BACK THEN), you guys got an alarm at Alpha Seven. I peal my face off of the arm of that lounge chair where the fake leather and my mouth drool had glued it. We fuss about the roads being bad and the truck needing brakes, but of course I still go. Most of the time when a site would go off late at night, 9 times out of 10 it would be some animal had gotten on site and set the alarm off.

Rabbits and prairie dogs would sometimes burrow under the fence and warm themselves on the grating next to the blast doors. Our job was to go out and investigate all alarm situations at the silos and to provide security during missile convoys sometimes from choppers above. So there we were, riding up and down ND’s long winding back roads in the wee hours of the morning. Passing towns that probably were not even on the map, headed for Alpha Seven. We’re suppose to radio in our grid coordinates every 15 minutes but hey, five will get you ten that the controller was probably fast asleep by now. I hated coming way out here in the middle of nowhere. There was too much open space which made me jittery. It definitely wasn’t D.C.

Since I was the senior member of the SAT Team I slept all the way out, rank does have its privileges. We finally arrived about an hour and a half later. My partner woke me from a heavy nod as we drove up the access road. I called in, ALPHA CONTROL … ALPHA CONTROL … THIS IS ALPHA SAT, OVER …10-4 ALPHA SAT… THAT’S 10-4 CONTROL, WE HAVE ARRIVED AT ALPHA SEVEN… STANDING BY FOR AUTHENICATION…We had to do this each time prior to entering a site, so they could verify it was us and not the enemy. It was also a way of getting some backup if we were under duress. The process involved well, I can’t tell you that.

That time of the night it’s easy to screw up the process but hey, I’m a professional. ALPHA CONTROL TO ALPHA SAT… GO CONTROL… THAT’S 10-4 SAT, BE ADVISED, YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO ENTER THE SITE… We unlocked the fence surrounding the site. I get out the truck and looked around, I didn’t see anything suspicious. I entered the site to make my complete check. I came back to the truck and called in my report that I found nothing unusual, all locks checked. We were off site awaiting a good reset on Alpha Seven.

It usually took about five minutes for the site to set back up. So we waited outside of the fence for Control to call us back. Twenty minutes has passed and I got impatient. ALPHA SAT TO ALPHA CONTROL… WE GOT THAT RESET YET… CONTROL TO SAT, THAT’S NEGATORY ON THAT RESET…STANDBYE…I should explain how the reset works, at Alpha Control about two hundred feet under ground, they have a two manned capsule crew. It mostly consists of two top notched, very brainy, officers. Their job is to basically monitor the missiles. Their main responsibility is to either start or end World War III. They have the capability of launching multi-nuclear headed missiles at designated cities and or countries around the world. That’s why they’re so brainy, I presume it helps to be somewhat level headed with such an awesome task.

They tell the Controller who is topside when a security alarm or power failure has occurred and at what site. The Controller in turn tells us and we go investigate. Plush job huh…sometimes. Anyway, they also let the Controller know when the site has reset. Thirty-five minutes has passed and still no reset. I knew if we didn’t get a reset soon, we’d be here all night waiting. If the reset doesn’t take place in a certain time frame they usually tell us to standby for further instructions. That usually translated into, maintenance crew from base is on its way. I hated to have to baby sit these sites, base was about 85 miles away and driving at Airforce speeds 35 dirt and 45 paved, it was going to take a long time.

Two thirds of the way out here was dirt roads. Plus, they usually take about an hour and a half just getting prepared to come. They had to get vehicles, weapons, chow and sometimes the troops. We got a call from Alpha Control, ALPHA CONTROL TO ALPHA SAT… 10-4 CONTROL, ALPHA SAT BY… THAT’S 10-4, SAT BE ADVISED, STILL NO RESET…HAVE CALLED FOR MAINTENACE CREW FROM BASE (what did I tell you). ETA WILL BE APPROXIMENTLY THREE AND ONE HALF HOURS… THAT’S 10-4 CONTROL, SAT STANDING BY…

I was mad, there I was in the middle of nowhere, hungry and out of smokes. I knew if we couldn’t physically get this site to set up we would be here all night. Three and half-hours usually meant five hours sometimes. I knew a few tricks to get the site to set-up, as did most knowledgeable veterans of the missile field, if I couldn’t get the site to reset nobody could. I bragged a lot back in those days. I called in; ALPHA SAT TO ALPHA CONTROL… CONTROL BY… THAT’S 10-4 CONTROL, I’M GOING BACK ONSITE TO DOUBLE CHECK A FEW THINGS… THAT’S 10-4 SAT, I’LL INFORM THE CAPSULE CREW, CONTROL OUT… I told my partner that I would check it out and to stay in the truck and catch a few winks. I didn’t want to show these rookies all my tricks. I didn’t think it would take too long anyway.

I was onsite for about maybe ten minutes when I heard this whirling sound. I was about thirty yards from the truck. At first I thought maybe Terrell had started the truck back up for some heat. It was then I realized the sound wasn’t coming from the truck but somewhere over my head. I looked up but I didn’t see a thing, nothing but stars up there I thought to myself. Must have been a jet, I mean we were next to an Airforce base. Then the only light on the site went off, I thought we had gotten a reset so I ran back to the truck. Sometimes the capsule crew will flash the lights on and off to let us know we have a reset if the radio is on the fritz. My partner was in a deep sleep when I got back to the truck, I called in, SAT TO CONTROL… GO SAT… THAT’S 10-4, WE GOT THAT RESET, THE LIGHTS FLASHED… CONTROL TO SAT, STANDBY… I was hoping we had, I was ready to go. CONTROL TO SAT… GO CONTROL, SAT BY… THAT’S 10-4 SAT, NO GO ON THAT RESET AND BE ADVISED, CAPULE DID NOT FLASH THE LIGHTS. WHY DON’T YOU … The transmission faded out and we started getting static on the line. SAT TO CONTROL, I DIDN’T GET THE END OF THAT LAST TRANSMISSION, REPEAT PLEASE… SAT TO CONTROL … ALPHA SAT TO ALPHA CONTROL COME IN PLEASE… SAT TO ALPHA CONTROL…

If this didn’t beat all, now the radio wasn’t working. All I was getting was a bunch of static. Then I heard it again, that whirling sound, this time it was coming from the speakers for the short wave. I tried cutting off the power unit but the noise just got louder and louder. Terrell was wide-awake by then and he was as lost I was as to what was happening. We got out of the truck and pulled our M-16s from the rear rack. Funny what fear will do. Again the whirling sound, this time it seemed to surround us. We both looked at each other and then uncanningly, we both looked up. That’s when we saw it and brother, it definitely wasn’t any jet. It was a greenish glowing, blurry type mass.

It hovered a couple hundred feet over our head for a few seconds, then it shot straight up and out towards the Northern Lights and disappeared. Well, and you know what I’m getting ready to say, if I hadn’t seen it for myself I wouldn’t believe it. Terrell and I just stood there for what seemed like forever, looking up at the stars, weapons still in our hands. We decided that maybe we had better get the hell out of there. No sooner then we got in the truck the radio came blaring on, it scared the you know what out of me. CONTROL TO SAT, SAT COME IN… SAT BY… THAT’S 10-4 SAT, BEEN TRYING TO REACH YOU FOR THE LAST TWENTY MINUTES, ALL I GOT WAS STATIC …BE ADVISED, DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DID BUT YOU GOT A RESET OVER… THAT’S 10-4 CONTROL, BE ADVISED…I started to tell what happened but for some reason I didn’t, just wanted to get out of there at the time. SAT TO CONTOL, ON OUR WAY BACK… 10-4 SAT, CONTROL OUT…

We had a quiet ride back to Alpha Control; the shock of it all was still very much on our minds. We did decide that maybe we shouldn’t mention it, I mean really, we couldn’t prove it and without proof, who would believe us. That following day I heard on the news that maybe a handful of farmers around the tri-state area had reported seeing something. This wasn’t all that strange because at least once a week somebody heard or saw something. It was usually blamed on a new batch of hooch some farmer had growing in the fields. That’s until it happened to me. One farmer claimed he was given a ride around the universe and back. Reports like that kind of made the idea of telling someone sound even more stupid.

I’ll never forget that night and even though I can’t explain what we saw, I know that they can never make me believe that it was some kind of weather balloon or something like that. Balloons don’t glow, make whirling sounds or zoom around the sky like jets. With no proof though, I guess I didn’t have a case. Word got out what happened to us out at Alpha Seven that night. I never told anybody, but then again, I didn’t swear Terrell to secrecy either. Everybody knew he had the biggest mouth in the Airforce. When anybody asked me about it I just denied it. After a while nobody asked anymore and people forgot about it.

They still had problems out of that missile site, no-resets and power failures still plague it. Nobody likes to go out there much. It got a reputation for being haunted or something. Funny thing though, they finally had to close that particular silo down and remove the missile. Even funnier, I was never assigned that flight area again, neither was Terrell. They said the alarm just kept going off for no apparent reasons after being fixed repeatedly. At least that was the official reason for closing it down. They declined to say that it only went off on clear nights, when the stars filled the sky and the universe was alive. Much the same as the night I was out there, one I’ll never forget…
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Re: Alpha Seven

Postby banjodog on Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:45 am

DSCOBLUE wrote: The nights in ND always fascinated me, there were so many stars in the sky they seemed to be close enough to touch. I saw my first shooting stars up north and I also saw the famous Northern Lights.

I liked going out on night dispatches (we called them "2 shifts") in the summer for this reason. After closing up, we'd sit on the access road waiting for the security system to set up and take a look up above. You could see stars forever since we were away from any kind of city lights, see satellites and so on.
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Re: Alpha Seven

Postby DaneTrain on Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:05 am

"mostly consists of two top notched, very brainy, officers. That’s why they’re so brainy."

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