I traveled to Grand Forks ND last week on business. I had an afternoon free so I traveled the North Dakota plains in search of my youth...
My first assignment in the USAF was with the 321st Organizational Missile Maintenance Squadron (OMMS) at Grand Forks AFB, ND in February 1979.
The 321st OMMS was tasked with supporting the 321st Strategic Missile Wing's (SMW) 150 LGM-30G Minuteman III missiles. The 321st SMWs 150 unmanned missile launch facilities (LFs) and 15 manned launch control facilities (LCFs) were spread out on the eastern North Dakota plains roughly equivalent in area to the state of New Jersey. These sites were split up into three operational squadrons of 50 LFs and five LCFs, the 446th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS), the 447th SMS and the 448th SMS.
I was assigned to the MMT Shop (Missile Maintenance Teams). We would perform any required missile maintenance, MGS (missile guidance set), RS (re-entry system), PSRE (propulsion system rocket engine) replacements, We would also assist with missile removals and would perform maintenance on the launcher closure ballistic gas generating system and the missile suspension system.
Since the LFs were spread out in a huge area, we did a lot of driving just to get to where we needed to perform required maintenance at the unmanned LFs.
On one of my early dispatch's into the "Echo Flight" of missile sites assigned to the 446th SMS, I was surprised by an odd vision of a huge Egyptian looking pyramid with the top lopped off sitting there on the plains near Nekoma ND.
I found out that this was part of the recently closed Army "Safeguard" Anti-Ballistic Missile system that achieved full operational status with a total of 30 Spartan and 70 Sprint missiles on 1 October 1975. Congress voted on 2 October 1975 to deactivate the system. Ironically, this vote occurred one day after the site had achieved full operational status. Tactical operation was terminated in November 1975, approximately eight months after reaching IOC. De-commissioning officially began on 10 February 1976.
The large pyramid structure was the housing for the missile site radar (MSR) installation. The MSR site also housed 30 Spartan missiles that were designed to kill incoming Soviet re-entry vehicles (RVs) while they were arcing over the poles in a ballistic trajectory (exo-atmospheric) as well as 16 Sprint Missiles that were designed to kill incoming RVs that made it past the Spartan missiles into the atmosphere. The MSR would guide the interceptors to the incoming RVs and were designed to be able to track and give guidance with nuclear detonations occurring.
Several miles to the north east of the MSR site was the perimeter acquisition radar (PAR) site that was a huge concrete block house with a large search radar to 'see' the incoming missiles coming over the pole. The PAR's immensely powerful AN/FPQ-16 radar system could detect and track multiple targets the size of a basketball at a range of 2,000 miles.
The PAR site was transferred to the USAF after the system was closed. The facilities are now designated as the PARCS (Perimeter Acquisition Radar (Attack) Characteristic System) at Cavalier Air Force Station and assigned to the 10th Space Warning Squadron.
There were also four Remote Sprint Launch Sites (RSLs) that contained a total of 54 Sprint launch silos that were spread out several miles from the PAR and MSR sites. This entire system was named the "Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex".
Here is a little tour I made on 7 January 2015 of some of the old Safeguard facilities. BTW my temp guage on my rental car showed an ambient air temperature of -10 F outside!
I hope you enjoy a look back at a little known piece of Cold War History!
Thanks and have a great 2015!