Google Earth is nice, it means I can visit places at the click of the trackpad on a computer. So, off I went in search of my home away from home from 1980 to 1983, the Launch Control Facility, Quebec Zero, southeast of Shelby, Montana. I couldn’t find it. I had found it in the past many times, but now, nothing. I zoomed in and scanned and panned. I could see the two the Launch Facilities, LFs that held missiles outside of Shelly on the screen, so I tracked the road back through the river break and south then east. My LCF was not there. I found Q-13 the LF south and east of where I wanted to be. Somehow, I had missed the LCF.
But in zooming in enough to see the roads in more detail, I noticed something was not right at Q-13. The access road was there, the fence line was intact, but the details within the fence were off. I zoomed in closer. The gate was gone, the B pit cover was partially covered with dirt and the Launch Tube cover was missing, some parts of the cover rails poking out of the dirt. The banjos were missing and some the of the site lights were gone. There were bulldozer tracks everywhere.
My heart sank. I panned back to the LF east of Shelby, Q-19 and zoomed in, it looked like Q-13.
My home and the ten missiles and thirty nuclear warheads we guarded are gone. Part of me is gone too.
I understand now, how Sailors feel when a ship they served on is decommissioned and turned into scrap or taken out and used for target practice and sunk.
The three and half days out of nine I spent out there was fun at times and crazy other times. There were people I was friends with and people I couldn’t stand, which means it was like any other assignment. Well, not quite. We dealt with highly classified material, and if one screwed up badly enough they could find their mail forwarded to a place in Kansas. But, as with everything it was part us and of who we became over time.
The nukes were scary and a comfort. We, or at least I, didn’t fear them. If war started and nukes were involved, the end would come in a time measured in millionths of a second.
The nukes, the most potent of weapons served their purpose, they protected our nation and our way of life.
I find joy that we did our job with honor even if the nation was ungrateful for our service. My sadness now is for those that will not add their stories to a long list of fun, crazy, silly and scary things that happened at O Dark Thirty in a blizzard at 40 degrees below zero.
The mess your pants times when Launch Crew Commander gets on the radio to the ART team, (Armed Response Team) checking out the alarm on Q-18 and says “Get 2,000 yards upwind of the LF NOW.” 2,000 yards? Right, the Russian nuke is just as likely to land where you moved to as it is on the soon to be empty silo. Never mind what will happen in the first 4 millionths of second when it goes boom.