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CLOSING A NIKE SITE
by Edward Dowd< dowdeddowd2 atsign yahoo dot com >
posted October 18, 2015
Table of Contents
- Arrival at Wilmington, Ohio - CD-27DC
- Accounting and horse trading ...
- Announcement of site closing
- Please stay to help
- The Trucks Arrive
- People waiting for General Discharge
- Loan Sharks worried
- ... we could hire a local security company to handle the front gate.
- Leaving, but the gate is not locked yet
As a happy techie, I (Ed Thelen) figured that to close a Nike site, you turned off the power, rolled in the trucks, loaded 'em up, rolled 'em out, and locked the gate.
More or less ;-))
The following is a more complete story -
When I returned stateside from the 38th Brigade in Korea, in June, 1969, I was originally assigned to a radar site on Lake Michigan. I forget the name of it, but I called the Adjutant of the 31st (?) Brigade in Pittsburgh (Oakdale) and he told me that it was a great place to be in the summer, but desolate after Labor Day. I asked him if I could be assigned to the Cincinnati area, and he told me that I should just take the assignment, and serve my time and let it go. I would be the only officer, so I could make out the duty rosters, etc, and it would be easy duty.
I called around to some people I knew from Korea, and from my days at Xavier University in Cincinnati. I figured out that there was a unit in Wilmington, Ohio, about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. I also heard that one of my classmates, Dick Berg was at that site, so I called his Mom, (I went to grade school, high school, and college with Dick, so I was not a stranger to her), and she gave me his home number. I called his apartment right away, and he was there, having worked ADDCP duty the past 24 hours. Dick said that they had several openings in the ADDCP, but the base was rumored to be closing as the Felicity, Ohio site and the Dillsboro, IN site had been closed already, leaving the unit in Wilmington, the HQ, and a Guard unit in Oxford, Ohio as the only batteries left.
So I called the Adjutant, a Major, in Oakdale, back and asked him to ask General Dean to assign me to Wilmington. He was incredulous and asked why I thought General Dean would change my orders, and I told him that I worked for General Dean when he was CO at the 38th Brigade, and I was his Asst. Adjutant and flew all over the country with his Annual General Inspection (AGI) team where my job was to inspect the S1 administrative functions that included the morning reports, the filing system, the Unit Fund, personnel records, etc. The Adjutant was very hesitant, but said he would mention it to General Dean. About an hour later, he called with admiration in his voice and said that General Dean said: “Let Lt. Dowd go wherever he wants to go”. So I was assigned to the 88th Arty Group, a Nike site. Dick Berg called from the ADDCP the next day, laughing about my assignment and wondering how I pulled it off.
Arrival at Wilmington, Ohio - CD-27DC
So, I arrived in Wilmington the following Monday. I was assigned to the ADDCP, and began the arduous duty of memorizing the SOP’s for NIKE missiles and the situations and conditions around which they could be fired. The ADDCP worked shifts of 16 hours on, and 8 hours off for 3 days, and then 3 days off. Once you got used to it, it was fun, but you spent a lot of time sleeping your first day off. Within 8 weeks, the CO, a full colonel who was about to make his first star, was after me pretty regularly to make the Army my career. He would finish his sales pitch about how great things would be for me, with :”As soon as you get back from Vietnam….”. Considering I just spent 13 months in Korea, I wasn’t even considering Vietnam…so I declined. Then the conversation turned to my becoming the HQ Battery Commander. This lasted into September when he appointed me HQ Battery Commander. I also got several questions from the senior officers as to the exact day I was separating from the Army.
Accounting and horse trading ...
One of the most important things about becoming a CO, was that either you or your other junior officer, the XO, would hold the property book, which listed everything of any value that the battery owned. When you held the property book, you signed for all of it…and they cautioned me:”If the unit were to ever close, you would be responsible for all of those items to the point where you would have to pay for anything that you didn’t turn in.”
That was very sobering, and since I was the only HQ Battery Officer, I also held the property book. Every senior officer warned me as I started checking the property book warned me that I should count everything. By this time it was October, and I think they knew we were closing. So I counted every spoon and fork, and jeep, and my supply sergeant, in turn resigned everything out to the troops who actually used the equipment. In other words, I was signed for the rifles, field jackets, desks, etc, and, in turn, the people that used those items were signed out to me, so I was not liable if they were lost.
My Father was an accountant and I worked for him in college taking factory inventories, so this was not a mystery to me. Unfortunately, the Officer I was getting the property book from, did not due his diligence when he took over the property book the year before, and he was short a whole bunch of stuff, (mostly sheets and blankets), that I would not sign for. He was short 87 blankets, worth about $1200. So this was a problem that he had no answer for, and he was exiting the Army. Items like sheets and blankets can be written off 4 or 5 at a time on a monthly “wear and tear” report, but he never did that, so he had no explanation and no money. Fortunately, he had 47 more field jackets than he was signed for. He had no idea how that happened either, because he had not counted them when he took over the property book. So, I called a good friend of mine in Ft. Bliss, who ran a training battery, and he had plenty of blankets, and had been ordering field jackets for months with nothing coming in. So, we started trading, and as the blankets began rolling in I gained confidence that I could make up the shortage and I let the old Property book officer off the hook. He was relieved beyond words.
Announcement of site closing
No sooner had I assumed the HQ battery property book than it was announced that the site was closing on October 15th, and I was directed to go up the street to CD27, the firing battery and sign for all of the radars, missiles, and other tactical equipment, as all of the Regular Army officers would be reassigned almost immediately, and be gone by Thanksgiving. The formal base closing was: (you guessed it), the day I got out of the Army, 15 February 1970. I was going to be the last guy out, except for the radar techs, who were reassigned to the Engineering unit in Gates Mills, Ohio, that would take over the site, and to whom I would turn over most of the equipment. It was unnerving to sign for $22 million of missiles and $12 million worth of radars, and “unknown” value of “special equipment”. At least I could look up and count the radars, but the rest was under ground.
I found the biggest issue to be people: everybody was leaving: my First Sergeant left almost immediately and the HQ staff was pulling out so they could be at their next assignment by Thanksgiving, so they could take some time over the holidays at their new location. Most of the RA (Regular Army) Captains and above were really Artillery officers, not ADA officers, so almost all of them went to Ft. Sill. The CO, went to the Minnesota defense as he was getting his Brigadier star in January and needed a year of command time before he went back to the Pentagon, where he had worked in the Officer’s Assignment Branch for 24 out of his 30 years in the Army. He was a great guy and offered me a career in the AG doing what he did, but I couldn’t get by the Vietnam thing. With the wonderful help of the CWO4 Childers, the Personnel Warrant, I figured out all of the people in the command who would be exiting the service in January, February, and March.
Please stay to help
I got them together, and asked them to stay in Wilmington until the end of their enlistment. I had a great supply sergeant in Ira Poliakoff, and he had several other clerks that were due to get out January, but were willing to extend to the middle of February. I also found 5 clerks of various persuasions who wanted to apply for an early out so they could go to college. Most of them needed to get out in late January in time for the second semester at most colleges. With the CWO Childers helping, we worked it out that they could get the early exit if they stayed until at least January 20th. This was going to be a problem for a couple of them, but the Personnel guy said, that once the decommissioning ceremony was performed and the CO left, I would become “Site Commander” for a week or two, and I could let them go a day or two early if they were going to a college several days away. I put all of the clerks in one room in the Personnel Office, so I had people in two places: the supply room and Personnel. So, these guys could out process anyone leaving and also take care of the other paperwork required of us from the Engineer Battalion.
The Trucks Arrive
The Engineer Battalion was anxious to get rid of the special equipment and the missiles, so I saw trucks roll into the site at 8 AM, and they would roll out at 5PM, and I would check the serial numbers and have them sign the appropriate paperwork transferring the equipment from my property book to someone else. After the decommissioning ceremony in late October, people cleared out in droves and so my days were mainly concerned with getting equipment off my property book and out the door as well as making sure everyone that signed out, gave me back the equipment they signed for. I probably spent 5 hours every day, just posting items to the property book. As people transferred out, the items would increase, and as I turned things in to Gates Mills, they would drop. So in one day, there might be 5 to 6 entries under, “entrenching tool”, or “ web belt,” etc. Every knife, fork, and spoon had to accounted for and turned in.
People waiting for General Discharge
We had another personnel problem that I had a lot of difficulty with and that what to do with soldiers who were unable to perform their duties and who were basically awaiting a General Discharge. These guys had no security clearance and could only work or hang out in the HQ Battery barracks, the supply room, or the motor pool. CD 27 had a fence within a fence to keep soldiers with no security clearance from entering. Under the rules, these soldiers had been sent to HQ Battery from another unit where they were unable to perform their duties, and thus, if the same thing happened at my unit, they could be offered a General Discharge “for the good of the Army”. These guys were spaced out. Almost all of them had gotten into drugs or suffered some debilitating event at an overseas assignment and had become incoherent, either intentionally or unintentionally, I couldn’t tell which. I suspect that two of them should have never been drafted, but this was a time when draft boards were more interested in filling quotas than making sure everyone was up to snuff. One or two of them were acting, hoping for a General Discharge.
My problem was, that none of them had been in my unit long enough to offer them the General Discharge. Fortunately the CO was an AG officer and he and the Personnel Warrant talked to people in AG HQ in Indianapolis and they found a Regulation that applied to our case. So I offered 9 of them a General Discharge, and they all accepted. The paperwork for each of them took about 15 hours to complete, plus physicals, etc., and they all had to be personally signed by the CO. So, we worked day and night and we gave 9 General Discharges in one day, and 2 medical discharges (I think they were medical) (to the two who should never have been drafted) the next day. One of them was in jail when he was discharged. This guy was a problem everywhere he went, including the jail. I made a deal with the Sheriff to let him go if I would promise that he was leaving town, so I discharged him in jail, then got him released, and walked him to the bus station where I bought him a ticket home, and then I gave one of my clerks the weekend off if he would make sure the guy got on the bus and didn’t get off . The clerk followed the bus to Cincinnati. ( I have always suspected that this how John Kerry was kicked out of the Navy and the reason he never let his service record see the light of day.)
Once those guys were gone, the personnel issues were all handled by the CWO Childers, who was going to stay until the end, because he was retiring. This was a big break for me as I was essentially the only Officer on duty from the decommissioning onward. There were Officers around, but they were on their way somewhere else and not working in official capacity other than turning in equipment and closing out their paperwork, which had to be sent to Oakdale if it was classified, or destroyed if not. I had to hand out a couple of Article 15’s to people who were trying to take advantage of the confusion and all of the comings and goings. They were stealing things, mostly small things, from the Day Rooms, and general areas. It made no sense.
Loan Sharks worried
Some of our enlisted men had been making ends meet by borrowing from loan sharks over in the Dayton area. With the bases closing, the loan sharks were circling, looking for my men. One of them looked like a professional wrestler. He stopped my car at the front gate early in October and told me that if any of them left without settling their debts, then he would come after me. Guess what? It is against the law to threaten an Army Officer with my level of security clearance. On several occasions I had run into the FBI guy in Dayton, so I called him up and apprised him of the situation. Then I restricted the two soldiers to the base after they went home and shipped their wives and children to Tennessee. They were reassigned to Ft. Knox, so we just moved up their reassignment date. I never saw the guy again. I don’t know if he ever got paid. My job was to protect my men.
... we could hire a local security company to handle the front gate. Around Christmas, things slowed down as I had turned in the bulk of the sensitive items. CD 27 was now the responsibility of the Gates Mills Engineer Battalion, so I was down to 4 buildings and about 15 people. With the sensitive equipment gone, we could hire a local security company to handle the front gate. The Personnel Warrant lived in town, so I sent everyone home for a week and he said he would come in and check on my 4 buildings and file any reports. At this point we were on the Pittsburgh 31st Brigade Morning Report, so we didn’t even have to file that.
A reality was beginning to bubble up in my mind from time to time: In 6 weeks I was going to need a job. I had been so busy up to Christmas, I had done nothing in this regard. So I began writing a resume and by the time I came back from Christmas, I had appointments with the Xavier U. Placement Office in Cincinnati to start my search.
Fortunately, after Christmas, the only major task I had was turning in the remaining furniture, typewriters, and other office equipment . They were the only things left on my property book. The Gates Mills guys made it real easy for me in mid January by taking almost all of the remaining items off my property book because I was losing my clerks to college, and I would soon have only myself and the CWO Childers. So the last week of January until February 15th, I only worked a 1-2 days a week and I spent most of the time in Cincinnati looking for work. Mr. Childers processed me out of the service, and I processed him out at the same time. I think he went to work for the Engineer Battalion, which was comprised of only about 10 full time active military and a bunch of retired military who were paid as civilians. A lot of them were on radar and missile manufacturers payrolls.
Leaving, but the gate is not locked yet
I always [thought] I would be the last person off the base and would lock it up and mail the key to Pittsburgh, but, in reality, the day I left, there were 2 cranes at CD 27 disassembling the radars. All of the enlisted men not assigned to the Engineers, left the Army about February 10th, the week before me. Eventually, the base was turned over to the Clinton County educational system.
It has been 35 years since all of this occurred, so I did my best to recall the facts as I knew them. I had very little knowledge of what happened at the CD-27 site up the street from HQ and HQ battery as I was not responsible for anything except taking the big stuff onto my property book.