Purpose Of Acquisition…………#85 (the 60’s)

The year-end holidays arriving,  the army artillery & missile school serving notice that classes would close for two weeks.   Gary deciding to apply for leave and take a bus home from Lawton.   mentioning his plans to Corporal Evans, discovering Evan’s and his family were traveling to Albuquerque.   Gary immediately seizing on an opportunity to save some money, asking if they had room for one more, his 86 dollar monthly pay always seemed to dissipate rather fast.   It was a one stop eight hour overcast journey across Oklahoma to Amarillo, then on to Albuquerque. the soldier being dropped off at the greyhound bus station.  A late afternoon departure for California,  darkness soon prevailing, the soldier somewhat disappointed, so much for a scenic view from route 66.  An arrival in Oakland, a phone call, and a welcoming dad  arriving at the bus station.

The soldier sensing that the atmosphere of home remained as it was after his return from basic training, not the same,  finding it no longer conveyed a lifeline perception or anchor in his world.  he felt like a family observer,  not a participant.  Before leaving fort sill, his eight months of enlistment longevity had arrived, a pay grade increase from E-2, to private first class E-3.    Gary taking advantage of his visit home, his mother volunteering to sew a PFC stripe on his class A uniform that he had conveniently brought along.   It was time to return, before leaving Albuquerque, making arrangements for Evans to meet him at the bus station for their return, but there was a change, instead of arriving by bus, he would be arriving by train.


he soldiers parents saying goodbye at the 40th & san Pablo avenue’s Santa Fe station. It was only Gary’s second time aboard a train,  not counting the electric A  train across the bay bridge.  his first locomotive experience was as a Oakland Tribune paper boy,  having won a trip traveling from Oakland to the boardwalk at Santa Cruz  with a  train full  of  paper route carriers.   The train ride  experience was somewhat dimmed, the scenic part of the travel was at night.  It was noticeable when the train came to a halt, asking a conductor, informed they added another engine at Kingman for the uphill climb to flagstaff.  The city with an elevation of over 7000 feet, just south of the San Francisco peaks, the highest mountain range in Arizona, with mount Humphrey at 12,633 feet.  The chair only, Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe’s sleeping  accommodations did leave a lasting impression, the soldier having removed his shoes, falling asleep for several hours, awakening to discover a first, his feet had swollen and it was all he could do to get his shoe’s back on.

The corporal electric material maintenance class was approaching completion, the class to participate in a field demonstration for visiting foreign V I P’s, and the scrambled egg ranked officers of the school command.   sergeant first class Stephens instructing his divergent group, going to great length to explain the subjectivity of their appearance as a constructive representatives of the missile school.  The members of CEMMC-2 culminating the curriculum, having been designated as the final graduating link in the program. the corporal missile was getting out ranked, a replacement having been developed, the sergeant,  a mobile solid propellant missile with a launch time platform of less than 90 minutes, compared to the 9 hours for the corporal, and would initiate it’s replacement starting in 1962.

The soldier wasn’t appeased with his commission in the V I P  missile demonstration exercise, preferring to showcase the test van, but was assigned to facilitate the generator truck.  One of the liabilities or assets, depending on one’s opinion, of the CEMMC-2 program, was the class being schooled in all the operational electrical  components  facilitating the missile’s preflight certification,  including the truck mounted generator supplying the three-phase power to the test van, and radar guidance command.  The cable connections accomplished, the generator powered up,  and communication cables between stations operational,   Gary having an opportunity to scrutinize the exposition in its entirety.   Sergeant Stephens, Tobin and Keys, accomplished the test-van,  with White and Martin assisting in cabling the launch control panel.   The Missile setup and flight simulation,  successfully demonstrated the operational continence of the Corporal,  apparently impressing the visiting dignitaries.  The  officials also impressed with the CEMMC-2 class’s performance,  acknowledging their professionalism.  As a show of recognition and appreciation,  relinquished the class,  from having to take part in the disassembly of the components used in the missile capability demonstration.

The class having fulfilled their mission, the soldiers falling-in, staff sergeant ross marching the formation back to the 2nd enlisted student battery only to be greeted by Sergeant Stephens wearing a callous expression.  The sergeant was abrupt with his displeasure, and in an unsettling tone giving an explanation.   during the visitors tour, a dignitary ask to see the mobile launch panel,  the cabled firing mechanism to launch the missile.  Sergeant Stephens and a conducting officer directing the luminary to the panel location,  pointing to the panel, starting an explanation about the firing procedure, but never finishing his sentence, realizing the firing mechanisms large red “push to fire” button was missing.  The sergeant stopping his explanation looking directly at Martin ,  “If the red firing button should appear on the battery’s duty sergeant’s desk in the next thirty minutes, the subject will be forgotten, no questions asked,  if not,  a full investigation will be made, and heads will roll”.  All those in the formation understood,  Martin’s recently acquired 1949 Ford would have to operate without a dashboard push to fire button.


Nuclear warheads class  commenced,  the final posturing in the completion of educational fabric in receiving their 214  Military occupational Specialty, MOS,   designated as a Field Artillery Corporal Missile Electric Technician.  Gary holding in his hand what resembled a shot put,  bestowed at high school track meets,  in reality a pound replica of the plutonium found in Fat Man,  the Nagasaki atomic bomb.   The weapons class instruction was classified secret,  giving a whispering intonation to its presentations, the non-spoken word was neutron nemo-initiators,  the bombs detonator design having been appropriated and passed on  to the Russians in 1945 by Ethel and Julius Rosenberg,  who were convicted and sentence to death in 1951, and electrocuted at Sing-Sing Penitentiary in 1953.

Gary finding the structural make-up of the atomic bomb very simplistic, the most complex achievement was the development  of the 32 nemo-initiators to obtain the perfect implosion.  Interesting was the regulating of the bombs barometer for proper altitude detonation,  but even more arresting was the missiles arming circuitry connection to the nuclear device, all inclusive of his MOS responsibility.  The final weeks of warhead school  projecting an atmosphere of conclusion, the ten members of CEMMC-2  all having fulfilled their goal, save one of the group, Lombardi, having failed the 33 week educational final and would remain at fort Sill,  reassigned for eight weeks of field artillery training and assigned to a field artillery unit.

Gary having some personal thoughts about the past ten months, questioning the purpose of acquisition, not questioning the reason,  but discovering his enthusiasm having  dimmed when confronted with fulfillment.  It was liken to a well drafted novel, an opening curiosity to get you hooked, an accomplished story line to keep you interested,  a satisfying conclusion enabling one to close the book with a feeling of attainment,  but for some reason this experience was non-existing..



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