Hangin' out at the Airlift Control Center
Life in Tent City : Visit the ALCC : Tour the AOR : Kuwait City : Write Me
The Airlift Control Center consisted of a core group of trained professionals from the 1621st Mobility Support Squadron - functionally, the DO staff from 21st Air Force at McGuire AFB, NJ. This core group of about 50 individuals was augmented from wings and squadrons to bring the total personnel count up to about 140 people. The ALCC was headed up by a one-star "commander of airlift forces" (COMALF) who served in a dual role as MAC's representative in theater for the integration of strategic airlift into the overall theater airspace plan, as well as the tactical airlift advisor to the Air Component Commander.
Our first COMALF was Brig Gen Fred Buckingham, who was the 21AF Vice Commander at the time. He developed a medical problem and was replaced in October 1990 by Brig Gen Ed Tenoso, who was the Vice at 22AF. The ALCC got into theater on 10 Aug 90, and immediately set up shop in temporary shelters in the Royal Saudi Air Force Headquarters parking lot. We would remain in that spot for the duration. By October, deployed units were being redesignated as Provisional units. The ALCC was redesignated as 1610th Airlift Division (Provisional) by Military Airlift Command Special Order GA-11, dated 31 Oct 90.
The ALCC started out as two 3x expandable shelters joined together to make one building. The 3x's were put close enough to the wall of RSAF HQ that we could run some canvas between the stone wall and the portable shelter to block off the space for staorage. Quickly outgrowing our units, within days we had added three temper-tents to the complex, making the shelters the hub of a three pointed star.
|Our water rations, MREs, and gun locker were all too much for our meager storage. So, we were forced to store outside in a relatively open area between the ALCC and the RSAF HQ mosque. Although we had cordoned off the space, the open end of it still faced a relatively dark section of the parking lot. Because the area was non-secure, we took turns pulling guard duty. Here I am holding the M-16 they issued. Bit of trivia here, but the clip in the rifle is empty. We were not allowed to load the real bullets for fear that we may accidentally discharge the rifle and hurt someone. So much for our faith in the Air Force training programs...|
Although we were on the RSAF compound, we were not actually part of the RSAF construct. The theater air control center arrived about three weeks after we did, and set up their "bubble" next to us in the parking lot. The Air Component Commander quickly realized that the parking lot was a hardship, and arranged to move the SAC and TAC guys into the RSAF basement. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room for the MAC guys, which is how we ended up in the parking lot for the duration. We were comforted by the fact that the Brits were right there with us.
|One of the hazards with being out in the parking lot is that whenever an alert claxen went off, we had a long way to go to get to the bomb shelter. A second issue was that the need to be in touch with our airlift assets didn't go away just because the ATO was being executed. So, the Saudis had come up with some space in a very wide hallway in the upper-level basement of the RSAF headquarters, as well as some lumber. We ended up building a long, narrow closet with a series of phone and computer hookups. The drill was that every time an alert was called, one person from each duty section would don the MOPP gear, grab a 4-wire, and head for this "alternate command center". The remainder of the ALCC would head for the bomb shelter along with all the residents of the building. Needless to say, the ALCC folks were always the last ones into the shelter. I wound up being the designated "alternate" for the DOX directorate, so spent a lot of time in MOPP gear.|
|Here we see one of my compatriots in the alternate ALCC attempting to drink from a canteen through the little tube in the nose of the gas mask. By the time the tube and the canteen had been detoxed (a LENGTHY process), he was too dehydrated to drink.||Here, Bill demonstrates the use of the new M-25 gas mask, patterned after a British design, and MUCH easier to see out of.||...and here, we see our faithful Current Operations Branch (Airlift Scheduling) defying the Iraqis by continuing to work during a drill.|
SCUD missile warnings were a thrill of their own. SCUDs were a non-ballistic missile that was lobbed about 300,000 feet into the atmosphere. When the motor quit buring, it would nose down and fall. Because it was unguided, and because it launched as high as it did, the Iraqis would use a weather RADAR to check the conditions before launch. The early warning system would monitor that RADAR band, and issue an launch alert based on the weather RADAR coming online. The estimated time from the RADAR lighting up to missile impact was about 7 to 8 minutes. What we didn't know at the time was that after the missile detonated, the Iraqis would bring the RADAR up again to track the actual flight path and make corrections prior to the next launch. Of course, when EW saw the RADAR cut, they would put out a second launch alert, and we'd all scramble again. It was lots of fun. After about threenights of this, EW figured out that the second RADAR cut wasn't a launch, and we didn't get as many claxens.
Another treat was the RSAF chow hall. For our first month or so, we ate two meals at our quarters and one meal at work. The one meal at work was an MRE... yummy. After a while, our Services folks worked out a deal with the RSAF to let us eat the noon and midnight meals in the chow hall inside the building. At first, this was an absolutely wonderful thing, as the MREs were marginal at best. After a couple of days, though, we started looking for excuses to go elsewhere. It seems that in order to save money, the RSAF chow hall served the exact same meal every night at midnight... curry chicken over rice. If I never see another curry chicken over rice again as long as I live, it'll still be too soon. Anyway, we started doing food runs to downtown Riyadh before the shops closed up at 2300. Downtown was pretty well set up with a Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, etc. But the real draw was the schwarma - affectionately known as "dog on a stick", the schwarma was slow-roasted mutton or goat shaved into a pita with tomato, yogurt, garlic, and cucumber. They sold 3 for $1, and we would buy them by the dozens. We would also get the DQ Blizzards, made with goat's milk ice cream and very tasty for it.
As the holidays approached, the "Dear Any US Servicemember" packages started to arrive, chock full of cookies and candy. Of course, with 12-14 hour shifts and trying to sleep during the heat of the day, exercise was a rare commodity. So most of us were trying to stay off the sugar. That is, of course, until Gen Tenoso revealed that he was a chocolate chip fanatic. He declared that any food in the "Any US Servicemember" packages was "calorie free" for the duration.
The holidays were good for a couple other reasons. We weren't allowed to have chaplains in theater, unless they were Muslim. However, each of the services had a number of "Morale Officers" assigned to their units. We had a Roman Catholic and a Methodist Morale Officer, and throughout the holidays they were bringing in ice cream, popsicles, etc. They conducted "Morale meetings" on Christmas Eve, and generally helped break up the monotony. The other fun thing we did was to decorate the ALCC, including mistletoe, and throw parties. We could even get non-alcoholic beer.
Last updated on 28 May 2006 by Chris Miller
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