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Remember When…

                                                  EVERY 4ACCS MILE a MEMORY

                                          SHARE  MEMORIES OF THE 4ACCS

It was in spring of 1973, that EC-135A Tail 61-0262 assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing’s 4th Airborne Command Control Squadron was on a return flight from Minot AFB, North Dakota to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota after being deployed for ALCC alert.  After landing on the wet runway the aircraft hydroplaned and left the end of the runway.  Story is the only injuries were bruised ego’s and one crew a crew member who egressed via the hatch with no gloves on and sustained rope burns to his hands.  It was reported no damage to the aircraft.

         (below are quotes bringing back memories found on 4ACCS facebook page)
(Some may have gotten sidetracked bringing back other fond memories)
                                                    Enjoy a few laughs…

“I arrived as a crewmember 11 1/3 years later.  I never heard of that incident in my five years aboard A’s, G’s, and C’s.” – Stephen Wilder

“Flew on “too sick to fly” many times.  The frame was actually bent and it flew 2 degrees off.  That’s what I always heard.” – Thomas Phelps

“What caused the bent airframe?  Was it this incident?” – Neil Foley

“That was what I always heard.” – Thomas Phelps

“Never heard any aircrew comment about the airframe being bent/crooked.” _Billy Meeks

“Flew on her many times from 1979 – 1984.  She’s now on display at the Ellsworth entrance.” – Ken Griffin

If I recall from briefs regarding this incident, Dickie Sirk was on this change over and may have been the first one out of the aft hatch…at least that is what he told us as to why he was sooo short.” – Anthony Androsky

“Captain Andy Knight, MCCC-A was the one with the rope burns.” – Joe Bruch

“That might explain why that jet always felt crooked.” – Mike Weimer

“We ran off the runway at Offutt once while I was there with 2ACCS.  Hit the hatch and headed up wind.  We never even noticed how low the hatch was to the ground until we walked back to the jet.” – Mike Dominick

“My “Books of Facts” have become tattered and worn over the decades, but this may have been my notes from my first 262 flight.” – Anthony Androsky

“It may have been a Southern Tier, but since I only noted ratios for FEW, maybe it was a non-off or retest.” – Anthony Androsky

“0262 was struck by lightning while on the ramp at Minot just after coming off alert in 1989.  The strike blew the boom floodlight off the tail of the aircraft.” – Mike Smith

“I was the AC on that day at Minot. It was 1987 or 1988 cuz I left in December 1988.” – Mark Gillett

“Mark Gillett how did you know get the call sign “Lightning” after that?” – Tom Timmons

“I got there Halloween of 1987.” – Mike Smith

“They never put another floodlight on her.  Lightning LeRoy caught some of that jolt.” – Karl Kellerman

“Carl Bray and I got struck on what I think was 262 somewhere over the Dakotas.  St Elmos fire was dancing on the glare shield and it hit just below my window.  Something about that jet (or maybe me).” – Rich Hartlaub

“Am I mistaken?  Didn’t some of the crew who were on the ground outside the ac, get zapped?” – Jim Oliver

“Yes the crew chief was on the ground under the jet and got zapped.” – Mike Smith

“Russ Truitt had his hand on the tire and he felt it go up his arm and back down…the boom wasn’t touching anything but was blown in the air and his hair stood up…crew chief holding strut was blown in the air and hit the ground unconscious…when he came too he started screaming that his foot was on fire…he pulled his boot off and threw it…we put all of them in a mx truck and took them to the hospital…boom had to stay cuz blood work showed the indications of a massive heart attack…Doctor pulled me to the side and said he didn’t know why he was alive.” – Mark Gillett

“Yeah I was the boom.  Al Williams was the co-pilot.  Scary stuff.  Jim had his hand on the tail support strut.  We just got done fueling up.  Fuel pit cap was still off.” – Daniel Lightning Rogan

“Dan you and I were coming off alert, wasn’t Ed Berte on the ground with you guys too?” – Mike Weimer

“Al Williams!  I remember a night flight with Al.  We were coming in for a touch n go at Ellsworth and he dropped the nose gear on a black cat right on center line.  Daggitt was foxtrot and had to scrap it off.” – Tom Timmons

“Hahahah I remember that, they put cat killers on the front of your red mission folder.” – Mike Weimer

“Yes…Truitt, Paver, and crew chief had to spend night in hospital.” – Mark Gillett

“Oooh, I’ll bet Daggitt was happy having to scrape up cat guts.” – Rich Hartlaub

“LeRoy Bullock, crew chief.” – Mike Smith

“I remember nights of many dead jackalopes on the runway too.” – Mike Weimer

“Mark,  I’ll never forget you in the left seat.  Al in the right and you pulled off your name tag and flipped it at Al and the Velcro caught in his tight haircut.  Al’s comment, “Frost, you’re my harassments witness…”  Fun times back then.  Laughing our butts off…” – Cary Johnson

“LeRoy Bollich was on headset when it tot hit.” – Joseph Hoy

“A few hours in that airframe.  I swear you could stand back in compartment 3 and look forward and see the “bend” in it.  Just always felt crooked!” – Robert Dilly

“The story in the early 1980’s was that because of the accident 262 did not fly quite straight, much like a car with a bent frame goes down the road.  262 was referred to as “to sick to” fly.  It seemed there were many bag drags from 262.” – Gale Lee

“My E-115 crew’s names were on it for a while, right before I was transferred to the 28th ARS.” – Daniel Lightning Rogan

“If I remember correctly…Dan you out in left rudder trim and right aileron trim put in during AR.” – Mark Gillett

“Mark, you were a wonder to behold during receiver AR.  I think you taught it in your sleep. LOL ” – Daniel Lightning Rogan

“Good ol 2 sick 2 was twisted when and noticeable during receiver A/R.” – Bryan Anderson

I have a lot of hours in 262 and never knew about this…Thanks for posting!” – Cary Johnson

“My baby.  Loved flying her.  Always brought you home.” – Jim Gault


Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

The Pentagon’s ‘doomsday planes’ are always fascinating topics. These airborne command posts convey the orders that could bring about armageddon and can do so even after parts of the United States become the home of towering mushroom clouds, powerful electromagnetic pulses, intense firestorms, and blinding flashes of light.
Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver© Courtesy of Robert Hopkins

During the Cold War, the U.S. military’s Airborne Launch Control Center (ALCC) mission, dubbed Operation Looking Glass, was of the utmost strategic imperative. If the orders couldn’t be given to launch the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), even as a strike on the United States was in progress or had already occurred, the nuclear deterrent becomes, well, far less of a deterrent. The USAF’s fleet of EC-135C ALCC aircraft served to mitigate this weakness, and onboard, at least for some of their existence, was a revolver-packing officer… just in case.

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver© Provided by The Drive

An EC-135C Looking Glass aircraft. Via Minutemanmissile.com

Historic images from within the electromagnetically hardened and highly-missionized cabin of the EC-135C show an officer in the rear right crew position with a sidearm on his hip. Considering this is inside the pressurized cabin of a high-flying C-135 derivative that launched from a highly secure based and filled with other airmen with security clearances, the sidearm seems like a bizarre addition.

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver© Provided by The Drive

An image showing the revolver-armed officer at their position aboard an EC-135C. USAF

Robert Hopkins, an accomplished C-135 flyer himself and aviation historian who wrote, among other books, the ‘bible’ on the C-135 and its many variants, explains to The War Zone that this was indeed a security measure aboard the EC-135C for a period of time:

“Yes. Comm Officer and Ops Officer were custodians of one key plus all the SIOP material. It changed over time, but the original argument was to protect access to either of these from rogue crew members.

B-47/ICBM crews carried them for a while, too. Also, the Emergency Actions NCO was responsible for collecting SIOP docs from SAC underground, and the Comm Officer had all the codes, so were armed during ground transport of materials to/from aircraft.”

Looking Glass missions first began being flown in 1961, though the more tailored EC-135Cs wouldn’t join the service until a few years later. During the type’s career, one was always airborne, 24 hours a day, up until July of 1990, which is an incredible feat. For the eight years that followed, the EC-135Cs continued to serve, flying regular missions and sitting ground alert, until the type was finally retired in 1998. Its watch was primarily assumed by the Navy’s E-6B Mercury, which combined the Looking Glass mission along with the Navy’s Take Change And Move Out (TACAMO) submarine-launched ballistic missile command and control functions. Still, the EC-135C will always have a special place in pop culture as the original doomsday plane and after, including starring in movies like By Dawn’s Early Light.

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver

Why An Officer On EC-135C Doomsday Planes Packed A Revolver© Provided by The Drive

While it may seem like having armed officers aboard such a plane would be something out of a fictional thriller, it was very much a real thing during the heady days of the Cold War.




52 thoughts on “Remember When…

  1. Remember when Luke Disilvestro and I were the lead in a 2 ship MITO with Bryan Anderson as #2…..I told Luke to delay rotation by 5 seconds and so did Bryan….we were filmed by the tower as rotating simultaneously…it was wrong …but awesome site

  2. During an alert at Minot, I remember being the first one to the hold line and the last one to cross it, and still made my timing. Long story short, my crew and I had a face to face with the DO that day and we weren’t invited to sit.

  3. Famous last words before you pray from “Mad Jack” Elliott A/C – “Ladies and gentlemen I am about to demonstrate how the space shuttle re-enters”.

    • Flew with Mad Jack many times both at 4 ACCS and Slik Purse. Saved my life and got me home on time on several occassions. In one case, i think we would still be sitting waiting on winds in the Azores if Jack hadn’t been at the controlls.

      • Tom, Does this sound familiar , ” Bonzo 52, Bonzo 52, Minneapolis Center, Break Left, Break Left, Break Left…” followed by a shadow passing by the missile compartment window.

    • Famous last words from a parked aircraft while doing an early morning training upload following a late night pub crawl during runway closure: “I think I’m gonna be sick!”

      • This can only be one person, the first and only 4 ACCS/ALCS female airborne missile crewmember.

  4. Famous last words from the A-2 aircrew on alert at Minot after they launched to refuel The Glass, “We were supposed to wake up the back end crew?”

  5. My first alert at Minot was with Jeff Mikesell. He and the crew went out a few minutes before I did – as I stepped out of the alert shack Jeff waved me over to the jet. I asked if I still needed to walk all the way to the ECP or was I cleared to cross RED. He assured me it was safe to stroll across the red line since we were parked right there in front of the shack. The moment my foot landed inside the red line the jeeps started rolling and the securtity guards were yelling at me to get down. Jeff said “you better run!” So I turned around and ran back inside the alert shack and hid under my bed. I heard the guards rummaging through the rooms until everyone came back inside. I suppose they saw and heard the whole thing because they stopped looking for me after awhile. Dang… thanks Jeff.

  6. I remember when Luke and I did a tandem carrier landing on tables at the zero club during a Navy promotion party. I also remember the bill everyone had to pay to cover the damages.

      • Hey Tommy no kidding. I can remember flying with your crew (you must have been busy up at Johnson Siding) when the roomies got in a bit of a “disagreement” during the approach. Danger Mouse is telling them to knock it off and I’m in the jump seat laughing…

  7. I remember an alert tour during the Winter/Spring of 1984, I think it was. Alert facility personnel warned us beforehand that a big storm was on the way. They even warned us that we’d lose power and should tape all the windows (yeah, no emergency power for the alert facility). They were right. Storm blew in during the night, power went down, and the fun was on. The next morning someone had run a bunch of extension cords from a pole where our alert vehicles were parked, into the facility, and we had a lamp and a coffee pot going in one of the small rooms downstairs. Later, we found out the the alert chow hall still had power and two people had spent the night. The base was shut down and only two (so I heard) artic cats were running base-wide, so we couldn’t even get box lunches sent down from BASOPS! So the next best thing to do, was get inside the chow hall, and with the help of the two folks there, they came up with some food for us. Eventually, I think the box lunches got delivered! Power finally came back on later that day and the Cold War, which pretty much came to a screeching halt that day, was able to continue. Alert at Ellsworth. Great times!!!

  8. I remember when I was a fresh new A/C pulling my first alert on the C model….went out for the horn, couldn’t fire up the cartridge, so we used air. We taxied down the runway and the MSgt came up afterwards and informed me we had a GOOD cart in the engine….I had squeezed the switches wrong. I was so thankful the WARNING in the Dash one was wrong that time about it being dangerous to taxi with a good cartridge in the engine!!

    Jeff Kaloostian

  9. Carm Auwater popped my true believing, tight ass Stan/Evil cherry during an Ellsworth Air Show. Just prior to takeoff, he’s telling me to shut off the water injection just as soon as the gear was up. What?? Clear no-no, but he’s the all knowing SQ/CC, and he’s CARM. I’m more worried about the butt chewing from Fran Goelz when he finds out. (more like a slow stare accompanied by a head shake that would pummel your soul)
    So we take off and I stop the water waaay too early. Carm sneaks the plane around the back of the audience, comes roaring in at min altitude. We’re crossing over the crowd, he bends the throttles over the fuel panel and yells “Start the water!”. What’s better at an airshow than noise and smoke? Well, he hauls back on the yoke, and we pitch that nose up and hold it at 45 degrees spewing black stinky until the water finally gives out. Eat your heart out Thunderbirds – the sky pig has a few tricks of her own! Regulations be damned! I didn’t stop grinning for a week.

  10. Carm also flew the last C model back from Malmstrom after runway closure. The base was turned out to watch. He pulled and most beautiful “S” roll ever done in and EC-135………..and blew all the oil seals in the engines. It was a great show!!!

  11. Sounds all too familiar. Like the time I looked out the side window expecting to see sky and saw runway. This was immediately followed by “I have the airplane”

    • Think I was on that one too. Weren’t we doing “crash and dashes”? I remember the Comm guys got bounced all over the place. After we got whoa’d up, A/C got on interphone and checked to see if we were all OK. Interesting way to end a flight……

  12. Great reunion in Rapid City over the weekend. My thanks to Mary and Duane for all their hard work and although the ROs were in short supply, it was great seeing those who were there. I hope we keep this going.

    • I second that Bill. Great time was had by all. I still think Carm is related to Dick Clark maybe Bob Parker too! Thanks Mary and Duane!

  13. Remember: The third B-1B [85-0076] crash happened on approach to Runway 31 at Ellsworth AFB, SD on 17 November 1988. … It was a dark and very low ceiling night…sometimes breaking out below minimums. Got diverted to Offit and stuck there for 3 days while they cleaned up runway “yard sale”. The four crewmen aboard ejected and escaped injury. The aircraft struck three wooden poles, a high-voltage power line and an approach light stanchion about 2,900 feet from the approach end of the runway. The Air Force concluded that the pilot and co-pilot had lost track of altitude as they tried to line up their landing approach in heavy overcast.

    • I was on a SAR Team right by the alert facility SGt Adams and SGT Dewrock we were watching touch and go,s and one plane before this B1 also had a rough landing me and Tony looked at each other and said dam hope we dont loose one we will never get off shift . Guess what 10 mins before shift change one went down.

    • I was TDY with a crew to Mather (I think) when the B-1 went down. We were the first A/C to land at Ellsworth a few days after the accident and we landed with a displaced threshold. All of the wreckage was still in place as we landed. Somewhere I have a pretty good picture of the wreckage as we were on short final.

      • The A/C was later promoted and eventually became a negotiator for the initial START Treaty and its implementation.

  14. I remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall 10 November 1989 while on alert in the new alert facility at Ellsworth (the tanker crews did a good job building that for us. hahaha), seeing the East Germans storming and swarming it and then tearing it down. It was a bit surreal, realizing that my aircrew mission to man the ICBM force may be going away in the next few years…the beginning of the end of the Cold War…the “glacer” was melting and cracking and falling down.

  15. Lucky to be duty crew coming back from Minot TDY. Squall line roaring thru Ellsworth. 60 miles from home plate I look at radar, tell pilot, John Lott, uh.. Pilot? Whatcha got at 10 o’clock, 40 miles? Nav, a Tornado, doing a number on Box Elder. Pilot come right 30! Wx avoidance.

  16. Another Carm story. Just took off heavy to fuel a buff. It calls it off. TU. end of quarter, nobody needs anything. Has me calling any body within CONUS to come play ….. No joy. So we ask Denver permission and get to circle Devils Tower at MEA. Flaps, gear, anything to burn off four hours gas so they can land. I swear you could see tourists staring at us.

    Then was asked on way home to do the flyover at Mt Rushmore. Busted missions with Carm were better than anything you could plan.

  17. We were on a Glass flight, and had a receiver refueling scheduled that day. I asked the general (forget who it was) if he wanted to sit in the jump seat for the refueling, and he said yes. Vince Kramer was in A/C upgrade training at the time, and I asked the general if he minded if I gave the A/R to Vince, and he agreed. I was in the right seat and Vince was in the left. As we closed near the contact position, the tanker had an autopilot pitch-up malfunction. You know where his tail goes when his nose pitches up – down toward our heads! We did a no-@#$% breakaway and luckily didn’t have a midair. With some negative Gs, the battle staff in the back was a total mess along with a few flight suits. We eventually completed the A/R with the tanker autopilot off which made for a few angry back enders. The smartest thing I did that day was to ask the general to sit in the jump seat – saved a lot of explaining on my part.

  18. I remember that morning, my due date, i woke up feeling “froggy”, I called Ernie Haycraft to let him know I would be late. I was 10 mins late. I went to lunch at 11 and felt a pain and was back to the office by noon so Dan Bird could go to lunch. Dan said I should go to the hospital, but I still had work to do. When Dan got back he was getting nervous. “I don’t want you dekivering on my desk!” (Dan was kinda serious about germs.) By 2, I called John Buckland to let him know I was headed to the hospital. That was Chuck Counsellor’s cue. He and John were conducting a dorm inspection with the Wing King. John was left to explain the reason Chuck and not he was heading to the hospital. (You see, Cuck had delivered a baby in the back of a snow cat, while john had only ever delivered kittens, and this was January 1990. Jasmine came on her due date, patiently waiting until after my normal work day…

  19. Does anyone here remember “Young Pineapple” in the summer of 1974?

    Best TDY I ever had. Four weeks at Hickam and we flew exactly once.

    OTOH, we played a lot of golf and drank a lot of those great mai-tais the Officer’s Club had.

  20. Were any of you guys at Minot when the B-52 caught on fire as it taxied back into the Christmas Tree after a ‘record time crossing hold line’ alert?

    Fully armed and loaded with over 200,000 pounds of gas!

    • When the Buff was taxing back in, his brakes were smoking, So my A/C jumped out in front of him and gave the ‘Cut Engines’ sign which he did. At that point, gas spilled out and hit the hot brakes, which immediately caught on fire.

      Thank God the Minot AFB fire crew was there to put the fire out in very short order.

  21. Does anyone remember what we referred to as operation “Young Pineapple” in the summer of 1974?

    My crew spent three-four weeks at Hickam and only flew once. The rest of the time it was golf and dinners and Mai-Tai’s at the O-Club.

    Best TDY ever!

      • As recall, we had three crews at Hickam for Young Pineapple.

        We’d be Blue 2 one day, (an 8hour flight), Blue 1 the next day, (a thirteen hour flight) then had a day off. We could go anywhere on Oahu as long as we reported back by 4:00 PM. At 5:00 we had to be within two rings of a telephone and at 8:00 as bus would pick us up to go to a mission briefing.

        Only most of the time we’d be released long before then At which point one of our two co-pilots would head for a bar at Waikiki, hoping to get laid.

        He’d return at 5:00 AM, which was great, because that meant he had the only body clock which actually functioned for a late night flight!

      • As I recall, we had three crews for each rotation and my crew was on the second rotation.

        Yet after all these years, not only do I not remember who were the first three crews, I don’t even remember who composed the other two crews who were there when we were.

      • We had six crews go to Hickam for that mission. Three went first and we relieved them. There were three crews but just two missions.

        You’d be Blue 2 one night (an 8 hour mission) , Blue Lead the next night, ( a 12-13 hour mission,) then have the third day off.

        All three crews were free to go anywhere on Oahu, but you had to be back on base and report in NLT 4:00 . At 5:00 you had to be within two rings of a telephone and at 7:00 a bus would come by to take you to a briefing. Take off time was about 9:00 Pm, but almost always, long before the bus came, we’d bet old the mission was cancelled.

        At which point we’d be free to go anywhere we wanted.

        The Intel guys called off the whole deal several days before we were scheduled to We got home courtesy of an ARS KC-135 which flew us to K.I.Sawyer, then a 28th ARS KC-235 picked us up there and flew us back to Ellsworth.

        As a Nav, flying south out of Hickam was very cool, because at least back then there were ZERO nav aids in the South Pacific. The stars are great Nav aids, when you turn around and head back, it’s daylight and the Sun is a horrible and unreliable Nav aid.

        I’ll never forget the briefing.

        They said the best Emergency Airfield on the way back was Christmas Island and it was 200 miles off course. Our instructions were to “Make low pass over the North End of the island, That will wake up the mayor and he’ll turn on the landing lights for you. Beware of bushes and small trees growing on the runway.”


  22. Anyone remember the Souris Valley Liberation Army incident at Minot?
    We were locked up for 5 days because of Global Shield kicking off. Finally got the word we could go to the BX for a short visit. They had a sale on water guns, and our crew bought most of them.
    Got back to the tanker side hooch, filled them up, and went on a rampage around the christmas tree. Missile officer was driving the alert truck. He’d stop on one end of the hooch, we’d jump out and run thru the building, then jump in the truck on the other side, and on to the next.
    One of the crews got smart, and called the last hooch in line – they were waiting on us with hoses and a fire extinguisher.
    We got back to our hooch and decided on a sneak attack in retaliation. Tied our blue scarfs around our head and started to walk over to them. We got fairly close, but they saw us. Walked up and shot the breeze for a while.
    Then things went bad. Had an SP truck pull up to the hooch pointing a .50 cal at all of us. They were as confused as we were. Come to find out, there was a Stan/Eval that was preflighting a bird at the end of the tree, and they called in an “actual” attack.
    Needless to say, this went up pretty fast. General at Minot called us in and reamed the AC’s backside (he wasn’t even aware of what went on). They launched an investigation into the events, including pictures of the water guns.
    Everything was sent to Ellsworth, and the crew got a second chewing from our Wing King.
    I still believe the only thing that saved us was we received an “Outstanding” from our GS observer for some work-arounds that we did during the exercise.

  23. Dang!

    At the very end of my time in the 4th ACCS we occasionally had a woman or two onboard, but only in the back end and never on alert.

    How times change!

    And for the better, I might add!

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