There was this one time when....

Stevedog

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Once when my kids were small (4 & 7) I used to hang out at a bookstore my friend owned. There was a woman named Maryann who also hung out there. She often mentioned "the space brothers". One day she said the space brothers had been giving her light shows in the sky at night. I asked about them and then asked if she could take me to see them. Of course I broght my kids, they went everywhere with me when I wasn't working. It was September so the sun was down by 8 pm. We followed her to a place behind the university facing the hill called "A" mountain (for Aggies - the university was mainly an agricultural school). On the other side of A mountain was the Organ mountains and on the other side of those is the White Sands Missle base where they were testing Reagan's "star wars". None of us knew what that meant, I thought it was a laser system to shoot missles from other countries or something. Anyway, we were looking at the stars and Maryann was explaining what to look for. Eventually she said, pointing to the sky, that looks like one there. We all looked and saw a star where she pointed, it moved then and zipped around the sky. It was soon joined by 2 other "stars" and they zipped around the sky together in a triangle formation for a while, then went 3 separate directions and disappeared. My oldest daughter (on earth to teach gratitude) yelled "Thank you!".
I read "A" Mountain and "Aggies" and thought "Hey, I know where that is!" But then realized that there are lots of schools who call themselves Aggies so it's probably not the "A" Mountain I was thinking about. Them you mentioned White Sands Missile Base and I was like "No, I was right the first time. I know exactly where that is!!"

I first met my wife at a bar in Juarez Mexico when I was stationed at Ft Bliss (technically it was Biggs Army Airfield) and she had just started her first semester at NMSU. That's how we knew we were destined to share a life together, because of the craziness of how we met. So if we are sharing crazy military stories I have quite a few. Some are even appropriate enough to share here!

At Ft Bliss there is a laundry service that handles the sheets and bedding for all the barracks. They also clean and press uniforms for the soldiers who want to look "squared away" without having to do the work. The guys working at the laundry facility were actually prisoners and this was all part of their work program.

One of the tedious jobs my unit had to do was get rid of weeds around our barracks and company building. We weren't allowed to simply spray Roundup on them as that was considered "dumping hazardous chemicals" if soldiers were doing it. The city workers and private landscapers sprayed it all over El Paso without consequence, it was just the military that wasn't allowed to use it. So instead we had propane torches that we would use to simply burn the weeds. It was incredibly inefficient as we would burn the tops away but leave the roots. For some reason I never understood we also weren't allowed to simply pull them out. So every other week a group of us would go out with propane canisters attached to the torching stick and set fire to weeds in the 100+ degree heat of East Texas.

At one point our Battalion Commander had asked about getting the same prisoners who worked the laundry facility to also come in and burn weeds. That request was denied because once the outside temperature reach a certain point it was considered "cruel and unusual punishment" to make prisoners work outside. I made a comment at the time about "Who do I have to kill to get out of weed detail. Because apparently soldiers are less important than convicts and killing someone would give me that convict level of treatment."

When I was in the Army I drove a Toyota 4x4. If you have ever seen Back to the Future and remember the pickup truck that Marty McFly wanted, and then got by the end of the movie; that's basically what my truck looked like except mine was red instead of black. I used to love driving it all over the desert behind the base, especially after it would rain because I could find patches of mud to drive through. On one such occasion as I was heading back to the barracks I came across a section of road that had washed out and left a small gouge in the ground going all the way across the path. Unfortunately I didn't see it in time to stop and my truck wound up nose down in the ditch with the rear bumper up in the air. The bottom of the ditch was too muddy for the front tires to get enough traction and the rear tires were several feet off the ground; I was pretty stuck. The good news was that this road ran along a chainlink fence which had some sort of government building on the other side. So I just needed to follow the fence until I reached the front gate and could ask for help. What I didn't realize at that time was that this building was the prison where the laundry workers were housed.

So my buddy and I, covered in mud from trying to my truck free, walk up to the guard shack. The guard comes out, very suspicious with his hand resting on the butt of his sidearm. I tell him that my truck is stuck in mud and ask if I can use a phone to call for help. The guard gives us a very stern look and asks if we were aware that this was a prison facility. I apologized and stated that we just saw this was a building and had no clue what it was for. Then, without missing a beat I asked "So does that mean I only get one phone call?" The guard stared at me moment with a completely blank expression, then relaxed, smiled a bit and said he would see what he could do.
 

JahaRa

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I read "A" Mountain and "Aggies" and thought "Hey, I know where that is!" But then realized that there are lots of schools who call themselves Aggies so it's probably not the "A" Mountain I was thinking about. Them you mentioned White Sands Missile Base and I was like "No, I was right the first time. I know exactly where that is!!"
LOL. It is not a famous place so it is cool someone on here has been there. We used to go up to a campground in the Organ moutains and watch the same kind of light shows after that, but then they started chasing everyone out at dusk and keeping the gate locked at night.
 
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Stevedog

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LOL. It is not a famous place so it is cool someone on here has been there. We used to go up to a campground in the Organ moutains and watch the same kind of light shows after that, but then they started chasing everyone out at dusk and keeping the gate locked at night.
Yeah, they have a lot of interesting things going on around there. I spent some time at White Sands Missile Base as my unit was invited in to work with some folks over there. At that time I was familiar with the idea of military drones. I had seen Predator drones flying around Ft Huachuca AZ and even got a close look at the specs on one called the Darkstar. This was a drone built using stealth technology like in the F117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. At White Sands I saw a completely different kind of drone that they called the Space Plane. It was about the size of a minivan but longer, almost like a bus, and looked like a scale model space shuttle.

This thing was just big enough to carry a single satellite. It was designed to take off and fly in a winding corkscrew pattern until it reached low orbit where it would eject the satellite and return to the hanger. This way the military could launch satellites without going through NASA and alerting the whole world about it at launch time. It was very cool to witness. Then about 9 or 10 years ago I saw a show on the Discovery or History channel talking about this "new" technology that allowed the military to remote control a mini space shuttle into orbit and the endless possibilities that such technology could bring. I actually laughed at the idea that I had seen this exact same "new" technology over a decade prior.

When I was getting my promotion to Sergeant I had to first go through the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC). This was a month long course where you learn to be a military leader who doesn't ever sleep. There were a bunch of other soldiers in the course with me including some who were part of the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) regiment. Early one morning, about 3:30-4:00AM there was a bright flash in the sky and a wired green glow. Most of us were worried about what that was and what was happening. However a group of the ADA guys were cheering and high fiving each other and yelling "It works!! It works!!". They said that it was a new system called the Theatre High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD). This was basically a missile system designed to shoot down incoming missiles. Apparently these guys were with the unit that had been testing the THAAD system at White Sands and they had a number of failed tests in the months prior. This was the first successful test these guys had ever seen.
 
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Yeah, they have a lot of interesting things going on around there. I spent some time at White Sands Missile Base as my unit was invited in to work with some folks over there. At that time I was familiar with the idea of military drones. I had seen Predator drones flying around Ft Huachuca AZ and even got a close look at the specs on one called the Darkstar. This was a drone built using stealth technology like in the F117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. At White Sands I saw a completely different kind of drone that they called the Space Plane. It was about the size of a minivan but longer, almost like a bus, and looked like a scale model space shuttle.

This thing was just big enough to carry a single satellite. It was designed to take off and fly in a winding corkscrew pattern until it reached low orbit where it would eject the satellite and return to the hanger. This way the military could launch satellites without going through NASA and alerting the whole world about it at launch time. It was very cool to witness. Then about 9 or 10 years ago I saw a show on the Discovery or History channel talking about this "new" technology that allowed the military to remote control a mini space shuttle into orbit and the endless possibilities that such technology could bring. I actually laughed at the idea that I had seen this exact same "new" technology over a decade prior.

When I was getting my promotion to Sergeant I had to first go through the Primary Leadership Development Course (PLDC). This was a month long course where you learn to be a military leader who doesn't ever sleep. There were a bunch of other soldiers in the course with me including some who were part of the Air Defense Artillery (ADA) regiment. Early one morning, about 3:30-4:00AM there was a bright flash in the sky and a wired green glow. Most of us were worried about what that was and what was happening. However a group of the ADA guys were cheering and high fiving each other and yelling "It works!! It works!!". They said that it was a new system called the Theatre High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD). This was basically a missile system designed to shoot down incoming missiles. Apparently these guys were with the unit that had been testing the THAAD system at White Sands and they had a number of failed tests in the months prior. This was the first successful test these guys had ever seen.
Yes, I tell people all the time that the military has been using new technology at least 2 decades before it is released to the public. I was in the army in the 70's. The communications units were using WW2 equipment for the most part in the units I was in until just before I got out when most of them were being given computerized equipment. I didn't get to use it, though I was trained on it, because the last unit I was in was a spy unit (communications batallion hiding spys, so we did nothing but play).
 
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Stevedog

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Yes, I tell people all the time that the military has been using new technology at least 2 decades before it is released to the public. I was in the army in the 70's. The communications units were using WW2 equipment for the most part in the units I was in until just before I got out when most of them were being given computerized equipment. I didn't get to use it, though I was trained on it, because the last unit I was in was a spy unit (communications batallion hiding spys, so we did nothing but play).
I was in during the mid to late 90s and saw lots of cool stuff. I remember they were training us on how to use these hand held GPS devices and as we walked around the desert the device would give us our coordinates and tell us how many satellites it was using to do so. The more satellites the more accurate it could be, so two satellites was relatively close but three or four was much better. At one point I had five satellites and remarked that it doesn't get much more accurate than that. In response one of the trainers pulled out a "kick" which was a crypto device called a KYK. This was used to install the decryption codes on a radio so that two radios could communicate with each other. He loaded the decryption onto my GPS and suddenly the thing was reading 14-17 satellites. I asked how many encrypted satellites the Army has up there and he just laughed and went back to instructing people how to calibrate the device.

I was also a "spy" in that I was in an intelligence unit. We had special spy planes that looked like passenger planes and we had the pilots and operators dress in shorts and Hawaiian shirts to look like tourists. We then flew these planes around South America picking up information on the drug cartels. We worked directly with CIA and DEA agents and gave them the intel we were gathering. This included audio recordings from cell phones and video. The camera system in our planes was so good that when we were field testing it the plane was flying over Deming and zooming in to read people's license plates in Lordsburg. During this same test we happened to pickup a small convoy of pick-up trucks just driving through the desert. We reported their route to Border Patrol and it resulted in them shutting down the biggest drug smuggling operation New Mexico had ever seen up to that point. We called that a successful test and sent the planes to Colombia.
 
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I was in during the mid to late 90s and saw lots of cool stuff. I remember they were training us on how to use these hand held GPS devices and as we walked around the desert the device would give us our coordinates and tell us how many satellites it was using to do so. The more satellites the more accurate it could be, so two satellites was relatively close but three or four was much better. At one point I had five satellites and remarked that it doesn't get much more accurate than that. In response one of the trainers pulled out a "kick" which was a crypto device called a KYK. This was used to install the decryption codes on a radio so that two radios could communicate with each other. He loaded the decryption onto my GPS and suddenly the thing was reading 14-17 satellites. I asked how many encrypted satellites the Army has up there and he just laughed and went back to instructing people how to calibrate the device.

I was also a "spy" in that I was in an intelligence unit. We had special spy planes that looked like passenger planes and we had the pilots and operators dress in shorts and Hawaiian shirts to look like tourists. We then flew these planes around South America picking up information on the drug cartels. We worked directly with CIA and DEA agents and gave them the intel we were gathering. This included audio recordings from cell phones and video. The camera system in our planes was so good that when we were field testing it the plane was flying over Deming and zooming in to read people's license plates in Lordsburg. During this same test we happened to pickup a small convoy of pick-up trucks just driving through the desert. We reported their route to Border Patrol and it resulted in them shutting down the biggest drug smuggling operation New Mexico had ever seen up to that point. We called that a successful test and sent the planes to Colombia.
I met one of the air force officers that was involved in perfecting those cameras you used to read license plates. He was developing them for satelites in the 70's. He said he could count ants walking around from those cameras from a satelite.

it sounds like you did some interesting things in the military. I was not a spy, was just background (or is it foreground) for spies that were using the batalion as their base. We had to pretend like we were working, hung out in the motorpool dusting our non-functioning equipment, etc. Most people just thought we had a crappy colonel or something but it was obvious something else was going on because they had a 24 hour guard on the Headquaters company barracks. If you did not live in that barracks you were not allowed to even walk up the steps, except for the colonel and his aide.
 
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