The recent bogus missile attack scare in Hawaii flashed me back to my experience as a STRATCOM ITALY crypto officer and Company Commander stationed at Camp Darby – 1971-1974.
I was in my office when an urgent phone call came from our STRATCOM site in Coltano: “RED ROCKET, RED ROCKET,” meaning that the Soviets had launched a missile toward the United States.
I responded: “Have you informed the STRATCOM Commander?” The answer was, “The Colonel is playing golf with the site commander” who was a major, and all of the Captains are with him as well as all of the other officers.”
Of course there were no cell phones or means of communication with the entire command other than Lt. Russell, who refused to participate in flag football, golf, or other silly sporting events ordered by the STRATCOM Commander, so Lt. Russell was the ONLY officer in command of one of only seven STRATCOM sites worldwide.
Our task was to handle all U. S. Government strategic communication in Europe, Africa and the Middle East which in my opinion warranted at least one senior officer at the helm at all times rather than being “AWOL” playing games isolated from any means of emergency communication.
When I first was advised by the Colonel that it was my duty to play games with the other officers I said, “With all due respect sir, the U. S. Government gave me serious duties to perform in defense of America and to perform the mission assigned to me. If you can show me an order from our Commanding General in Heidelberg, Germany or our Commanding General in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, that all officers should abandon our mission to play golf or flag football then I will join you. But if not, my duty is to be in charge of a company that operates one of the most vital strategic communications sites on the planet.
Of course, my local commander never bothered me again to play silly games with the commander and the other officers.
So, that being said, I was obviously stressed to the max because the sergeant left in charge by default had no instructions about what to do if the “RED ROCKET” alert arrived at the site and of course, my only order was to “find out if the alert was an actual Soviet missile on its way to vaporize Washington D. C. or some other part of the planet or was a test.”
I felt certain that the Major in charge of the signal site would have been versed on what to do and how to transmit the message worldwide if in fact the threat was real but since all officers other than the virtually “insubordinate” Lt. George H. Russell were playing golf, I felt like the atomic bomb had been thrown into my hands like a hot potato.
Fortunately, the alert turned out to be a test of our strategic communications system and just like the fiasco in Hawaii, the test was an obvious failure. Also it was fortunate that no one had any idea about how to alert anyone either in Italy or America, so there was no panic other than the stress of wondering just how competently our military defense structure is able to operate in a genuine atomic threat.
George H. Russell, an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, is a resident of Huntsville, Texas, known worldwide as “The City of Death.”
He is founder of The Patriot Network, and author of its 35+ web sites located at www.patriotnetwork.org, as well as founder of The Universal Ethician Church, an interfaith ministry with a worldwide following via the church’s 275+ web sites located at www.salvationnetwork.org. He is also the founder of The Ethician Foundation, see www.ethicianfoundation.org