A CONTROLLER’S DÉJÀ VU’
“Everything” is changed, but everything is the “same.” Gone is the darkroom, the vertical plotting boards, the dais, and the big cathode ray tube monitors (and maybe some of the ambiance). But the job is still the same: identifying aircraft that could pose a threat (including Russian bombers intruding Alaska’s airspace), running fighter intercepts on targets (for real or for practice). Also the same, I’m sure, is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of frenzied action dealing with aircraft emergencies and other unexpected situations. Do I miss all this? The answer is "yes."
My first experience as a controller was in 1955 at Jitney Control at Cape Charles (Virginia) AFS. Later came computerized controlling at Air Defense Sage Centers at the Los Angles Air Defense Sector (LAADS) at Norton AFB. I was a controller at LAADS during the Cuban missile crisis – and that, I’m here to tell you, was exciting stuff. Later I controlled at the Great Falls Air Defense Sector in Montana. I spent a year remote as Operations Officer and Second-in-Command at the 748th AC&W at Kotzebue AFS in 1964-65 (never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever serve in the Alaska Legislature thirty-eight years later!).
My last job as a controller was at Sembach Air Base, Germany in an inflatable building we called the “Rubber Ducky.” Before that, I was Battle Commander at "Motel Alpha" control site at Udorn, Thailand. However, my controller’s piece de resistance was in Vietnam (1972-73) as a Senior Director at Monkey Mountain, DaNang, Vietnam, and then as Commander of the radar site at Pleiku, Vietnam - Peacock Control - where we controlled airplanes (both American and Vietnamese) many times while undergoing rocket attacks (which tends to focus one’s attention), and calling in help for battle damaged aircraft trying to make it back to home base. At Pleiku, I was on duty controlling aircraft during the famous Christmas Eve raid of Hanoi.
The photos are of my Master Weapons Controller Badge, me at a control scope today at Elmendorf AFB, me as a Controller at Kotzebue in 1964 (check out that mustache!), and a picture I took on Christmas Eve 1972 of my control scope at Pleiku, Vietnam of B52 bombers en route to Hanoi from Thailand - each blip contains three of the big bombers. I'm the only person in the world with that historic photo!