Digging A Trench For The HICS Cable
In discussing the various aspects of the Minuteman missile and the numerous components required to make this an effective weapon system, it is important to note the significant impact the Minuteman missile has had on the families involved in the construction, maintenance and operation of the Minuteman missile. Equally important it is imperative to discuss the impacts that this missile has had on the ranchers, farmers, and land owners, as well as the surrounding communities as a whole.
What a number of people may not realize, is that in the early days of the first deployment of the Minuteman missile, many of the Air Force personnel assigned to the new missile wings were working anywhere from 6 to 7 days a week, and working long hours. The Minuteman missile was a new weapon system and within approximately 5 years, 1000 Minuteman missile Launch Facilities, and 100 Launch Control Facilities were constructed. This required a significant amount of man hours to make all of this happen.
This resulted in families not seeing the Airman who were based at the 6 missile wings, for extended periods of time. Given this was all unfolding in the middle of and at the height of the Cold War, the added pressure to get the Minuteman missile and all of its components up and running, took its toll. Complications, problems and challenges occurred frequently, requiring a great deal of diligence, patience and a prolonged focused effort to accomplish the monumental task asked of everyone.
For some, holidays were missed, birthdays had to be postponed, and for others, anniversaries had to be given a rain check. In retrospect, a great deal was sacrificed in terms of the families of the Airman who were involved, in placing the Minuteman on strategic alert, and often times not much was done to address this reality. The priority focused on the Minuteman missile.
To this day, some families have to postpone their holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as other special events, given the need for the Airman to pull an alert, or when one is called out to perform a non-scheduled maintenance.
All in all, the impact on the families and the Air Force personnel, back then, as well as current day, has been significant.
When the Air Force first started to plan on placing Minuteman missiles throughout the United States, assigned to a total of 6 Air Force bases responsible for each of their respective missile wing, the ranchers and farmers had no idea what was coming.
One huge impact that they had to contend with early on, was the digging and laying of thousands of miles of HICS cable, which provided the capacity of the Launch Control Facilities to have the command and control required of the Launch Facilities.
During this phase of construction the ranchers and farmers had to stand to the side while the work crews were digging trenches through their fields, which basically prevented numerous land owners the ability to access their fields, their crops and their cattle, as was required of them. This was quite a paradigm shift for these ranchers and farmers. To some, this presented a number of significant challenges in trying to find a way to work around these obstacles.
In addition to the obstacles faced by the farmers and ranchers with having significant obstacles placed in their way of getting their work done, they also had to contend with their once quiet county roads becoming significant thoroughfares for the numerous construction trucks, cranes, and other equipment getting to and from the Launch Facilities and Launch Control Facilities that were in the midst of construction.
A number of those impacted took all of this in stride, with the knowledge that the cause at hand was important, as well as imperative, but it still tended to ruffle some feathers.
One interesting aspect out all of this, was how many of the ranchers and farmers eventually became possessive, in a way, of the missile silos located on or close to their property. When a rancher would see a maintenance vehicle, or some other vehicle that they were not familiar with, parked at the Launch Facility, that rancher would soon be on the phone calling the Air Force and asking, "What the hell is going on with my missile silo?"
Another important component of the impact the Minuteman missile has had, starting over 50 years ago, addresses the significant impact that the Minuteman missile has had on the communities affected by the deployment of this ICBM. Not only were the families impacted, the ranchers and farmers, but the communities where these Launch Facilities and Launch Control Facilities are located, have all been impacted as well, in a number of different ways.
One advantage of having a flight, or a squadron of missiles in the area is that the roads to and from the LFs and LCFs are maintained to assure ease of accessibility by the Air Force to and from the sites. In the winter the Air Force has been a huge help in assuring that the roads, (paved and dirt) are plowed during the months of snow, to assure the accessibility to get out to the Launch Control Facilities (Missile Alert Facilities) and Launch Facilities.
Restaurant businesses certainly see a boost in business when Airman from the Air Force stop by for coffee, lunch and/or dinner. There was a diner in Lewistown, Montana that had a very strong and popular following. Word has it that this diner made the best cinnamon buns, and the various Air Force personnel who worked on the 490th Strategic Missile Squadron, knew the days and times the diner would have freshly made cinnamon buns ready, just out of the oven. These crafty Airman would configure their schedule around getting to the diner to take advantage of those freshly baked, home prepared cinnamon buns.
In the early years of the deployment of the Minuteman missile, people near and around the Missile Alert Facilities and missile silos, were familiar and more or less used to seeing the maintenance personnel and security details coming and going. Many of these residents have taken great pride knowing what the Minuteman missile represents in the scope of establishing and maintaining nuclear deterrence.
When the Air Force evolved its presence and the manner in which they provided security to the Launch Control Facilities and Launch Facilities, the sight of seeing Humvees with a machine gun turret on top, as well as taking in the intimidating stance of a Bearcat driving by, added a whole new element on how these residents in the various communities located close to a missile squadron, thought of and felt toward the Minuteman missile and its more predominant Security Forces
Of interest, it is important to note, that unless one is living near or close by to one of the 3 remaining missile bases, (FE Warren AFB in Wyoming, Minot AFB in North Dakota and Malmstrom AFB in Montana) most individuals who don't live in these areas are oblivious to the reality that currently there are 450 Minuteman missiles on active strategic alert in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana.
What makes this even more interesting, is that a number of these individuals who are being described, are intelligent individuals, who are engaged in the local and national politics of their region, as well as the societal and world affairs around them, yet when they are informed that, yes, the Minuteman missile is very much in an active and present existence currently, these individuals are astounded by this statement. They exclaim that they thought those days of nuclear defense have long sense faded from existence.
Which brings one back to the point of how significantly these communities were impacted 30, 40 and 50 years ago, and how they continue to be effected and impacted by the Minuteman missile today.