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Letter to the Editor: Deference


Aurora Borealis ----

It is weird flying through green clouds, but beautiful and awesome at the same time.

I witnessed this phenomenon over 50yrs ago while on Active Duty USAF.  I was based at Walker AFB, Roswell, New Mexico.  This mission was out of a base in Alaska.  Our KC-135 Stratotanker was as full of JP-4 fuel as temperature and runway length would allow.  Our four Pratt & Whitney J-57 jet engines with water augmentation gave us the proper power to get airborne. We were then on our way Eastward toward Thule, Greenland to rendezvous with a B-52 24-hour nuclear alert bomber, offloading the proper pounds of fuel for him to complete his mission; only orders from the President of the United States would authorize continuation to his assigned target, otherwise, he was to remain in orbit until relieved.

Our flight path took us North of the Arctic Circle, our magnetic compass system was useless as we were close to the magnetic North Pole.  Our Navigator used a system called "Grid Navigation" -- Never did understand it, but I didn't need to as I was only a CoPilot.  Anyway as we approached our rendezvous point to refuel the bomber, we learned the aircraft experienced a serious malfunction that required a mission abort.  We were then instructed by "Outway" call sign for Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB, Omaha to orbit the assigned area until relieved.  We obviously had no nuclear weapons so we were a communications relay with the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System( BEMEMS) Site to Headquarters SAC (Outway) at Offutt AFB. The sole purpose of these early warning Radars was to see a ballistic missile in the ascent stage from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). 

This warning transmitted to the proper authorities would give SAC Wing Commanders enough warning to give a Red Dot message to its Alert Force authorizing a launch of Alpha force B-52, B-58, and KC-135 aircraft.  These aircraft would then proceed to their appointed fail-safe points and await strike orders from the President of the United States to proceed to their assigned target in Russia and its satellite countries. Fortunately, the Red Dot message, as it was called, was never given.  We did have alerts of Blue Dot and Green Dot exercises where after the alert klaxon sounded alert crews would quickly go to their assigned aircraft to only start engines or start and taxi - recording times of each event.  Each Base had a BEMES time that had to be met day or night fair weather or foul; the further North the Base the shorter the BEMES time. This was serious business with thousands of Air Crews,  Air Police guards and Maintenance personnel dedicated to this task.  Fortunately, our only efforts were the exercises to demonstrate that we could launch at any given time with the proper authorization.  It was then during the Reagan Administration that the USSR was dissolved and SAC disbanded. We had fulfilled our mission - "Peace is our Profession".  A nuclear weapon was never delivered - All mankind would be grateful.  A nuclear exchange would have no winners.  But it was necessary for the other side to believe in deterrence!!

At that time it worked, but one wonders if Iran gets the nuke if they will use it or defer? We can not afford to trust them.  There is no reason to develop strategic missiles if a nuclear warhead is not to be placed on the nose. Saudi Arabia and Israel as well as American Cities would certainly be in the crosshairs.  We must continue efforts at nuclear disarmament.  Sanctions on Iran's present governance must never be relaxed. 

       Where tillage begins, other arts follow.

"Freedom is lost gradually from uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved people."---  Thomas Jefferson 


John Stiegelmeyer (Former Captain USAF)

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Roger Schlarbaum March 19, 2021, 10:55 am Great information, we don't appreciate enough the protection and sacrifice being on call like that 24 hours a day and day after day. Thanks, John I always enjoy your articles, keep them coming!
jim smock March 19, 2021, 11:07 pm As a former USAF recruit who didn't get lucky enough to be on a flight crew, I too, enjoy your articles and political position!!
Gerald Bates March 22, 2021, 11:17 am Very good read.
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