Phantom Generator Operator


It was a pleasant summer evening. The battery was in 12-Mike, or 12-hour Maintenance state, meaning there were no birds on the launchers, and only the guard force on site. The standard guard force consisted of a Sergeant of the Guard (SOG), 2 MP’s, and 4 guards drawn from non-duty personnel. I recall that the Tactical Control Officer (TCO) that evening was 1LT Irene Van Deven. I don’t recall who had SOG duty, although one of the guards was SPC Daimon Diggs, a generator mechanic.

I was on Post 3, and around dark, Diggs joined me at the gate, as was standard procedure. About an hour after he got there, we were talking quietly, and suddenly heard one of the generators starting up over at the generator shop, which was about 20 yards away. I looked over at him and asked him what other generator jocks might be on site, and he said as far as he knew, there weren’t any others; he was it. There were no lights on at the shop, and no movement on any side that we could see.

We called the SOG in the Ready Building, and asked them if they knew of anyone on site that would be running a generator. They said no, and I told them I’d be checking it out. I locked and loaded my .45, and Diggs moved to cover me from the corner of the guard shack, loading and locking his M16 as he did.

This might seem a little severe to those of you without military experience, but remember that we were in Germany in 1988, when there were still people a couple hundred miles away that would be really interested in taking out an air defense unit. Plus, it was about 10:30 PM, and there wasn’t supposed to be anyone on site. I had been at the gate for about an hour prior to Diggs showing up, and I knew I hadn’t let any generator section personnel on site, the MP I relieved didn’t mention letting any in, and there was nothing in the Entry Control Log. Besides, I had a clear view of the shop, and there weren’t any lights on.

I wasn’t thrilled about crossing 20 yards of open ground while silhouetted by the guard post floodlights, so I had Diggs turn the lights off. I waited a few seconds, then made my way across the driveway. I got to the side of the building, and inched along the wall to the corner, drawing my weapon as I did. I took a deep breath, took the safety of my pistol, then began "slicing the pie," taking tiny steps as I came around the corner into the darkness.

It seemed like hours later, but after about 45 seconds, a smoking, wheezing 10 kW generator came into dim view, sounding as if it were going to stall out any second. I looked around the immediate area, looking for an out-of-place shadow, or outline, or something that didn’t look quite right, besides this generator running.

I didn’t see anything in the shadows, so I pulled out my flashlight, and found the cut-off switch for the generator. I killed the light, and stepped back into the black shadows along the building, out of the dim light cast by the moon, and other floodlights around the tac-site. As I waited for my hearing to return to normal, I strained to hear even the tiniest scrape, or scratch, or the tell-tale jingle that chain link fence makes as someone tries to climb it.

I waited for about a minute after the ringing left my ears, and still didn’t hear anything wrong, so I began to make my way back around the back side of the generator shop. As I emerged from the shadows of the shop onto the main drive of the tac-site, I was met my LT Van Deven, accompanied by the SOG, and one other guard.

The SOG advised he had sent one guard (SPC Kissel, I think) to the top of the guard tower with night vision equipment and a radio, and that he hadn’t seen anything, but was checking out the area still. The LT decided since we were right next to the missile storage area, we should go ahead and check the missiles and trucks there, seeing as how there were 60+ missiles stored there, each with somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 pounds of C-4.

We spent the next 20 minutes or so split up in 2 teams of 2, checking the trucks for anything that looked out of place, and the missiles to make sure they hadn’t been switched from "Safe" to "Arm." All of the equipment finally checked out OK, and we began calming down. The SOG sent the LT and two guards for a patrol around the outside of the fence, and they didn’t report anything strange.

As I recall, I didn’t sleep to well that night during my off time. I remember checking a set of night vision goggles out, and spending some time in the guard tower, watching the lower end of the site, and seeing nothing but the rabbits playing in the grass.

The next morning, I happened to have breakfast with SSG Crumlich, the generator section chief. I mentioned the previous night’s events, and even though he claimed not to know anything, he seemed to have a knowing sparkle in his eye as he mentioned something about knowing how to rig a generator for remote start using a TA-312 field telephone, which we had several of.

So you decide: Was I the victim of a well-organized practical joke, even though no one ever said "Gotcha!"? Or did someone get into our site, do nothing but start a generator, and then get out again without being seen? I’d much prefer the former, given the somewhat sinister implications of the latter.

— Bob Mueller