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SkyMan

History Guy on NORAD, the '79 incident

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SkyMan

March of '83 I arrived at my new assignment in Cheyenne Mountain to work on the 427M system and made my first of what would be thousands of walks through the blast doors shown below.  The '79 incident was still fresh in the minds of many who worked there.  CINC NORAD at the time was Gen James V. Hartinger.  He was a funny little guy that often mentioned he was 6' 4" until '79.  To say we worked under a microscope would be an understatement.  We were told that any errors made would be reported to the POTUS.  Anything we did had to be verified by several people.  This had the problem that training to proficiency or preventive maintenance was quite difficult because the system to be worked on required complete isolation from the live systems.  That meant that for a 2 hour training block, you might get maybe 45 minutes of actual training, first with isolation and then after training, wiping the system and verifying the correct configuration before bringing it back online.  The system itself was contained on 8 disk packs about 1.5 feet in diameter and 8 inches high and had 20? lead platters and lead spacers between them in a plastic case.  Each pack could hold a whopping 277MB and weighed about 15 pounds.  One pack for each drive about the size of a washing machine.  Going into training mode required removal of all 8 live disks and installing the training packs.  Programming was done downtown and system upgrades required shipping the packs for all the the systems to the mountain.  Many there worked the NORAD schedule which over time was brutal on the body.  2 Swings, 2 Mids, and 2 Days, and then 3 off in a 10 day rotation.  Getting snowed in their was also possible in the winter and you might pull a 24 hour shift.  A couple years after Gen. Hartinger retired he still lived in Colorado Springs so I wrote him a letter requesting his recommendation for Officer Training School.  2 days later he called me at my house and asked how his letter sounded.  The letter was actually kind of condescending to the OTS board.  He made a strong recommendation and then said he felt qualified to make the recommendation based on the fact he was the only person to ever rise from Army Private to USAF 4 star.  Almost saying "Ok, Colonels, beat that!"

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