This is the last of a three-part series about an educational trip to Offutt Air Force Base by honorary commanders and civic leaders.
Today we backtrack a bit and then continue with the tour of Offutt Air Force Base. The colonel answered the question about the meaning of three clocks on the wall of what is called the Battle Deck, the room where missile launches around the world are monitored.
“Yes, let me explain,” the colonel said. “The Red impact time is the time until an enemy missile will impact the United States or one of our allies. The Blue impact time is the time until our missile will impact the enemy. The Escape time is the time for our general to get to the runway and get into the air in his airplane.”
All of the times were set at 00:00, thank goodness.
Let this sink in a bit. These people were monitoring the world and may have the responsibility of transmitting the signal to send a nuclear missile toward an enemy. This is serious business, for sure, and most of us realized the weight of this responsibility.
After this bit of heavy information, a lighter bit of info was needed. I approached Major Kling after the briefing.
“Must ask, Major, where did you get the first name Static?”
He smiled and pointed to the last name on his uniform, “Kling.” It seems he didn’t care much for his real first name and adopted Static to go along with his last name.
We attended several other briefings during the day. One was on the airfield. We stopped at the gate and an airman climbed on the bus checking the identification of each of us, with a pistol on his hip and a long gun across his body. This was serious business.
We stopped at a jet and the group was split, with half going in the front and the rest in the back. This was one airplane of several on the airfield to become a flying command post, if STRATCOM, U.S. Strategic Command, was somehow destroyed. A general is always on board, sometimes two, as he/she would be the person to talk to the president, should the situation call for such action.
The units and the missions of each are tremendous, but the impressive part of the entire operation is the individual airman, marine, soldier or sailor. Offutt has all of the military services represented in various STRATCOM positions.
The last event on the base this day was what was titled a Windshield Bus Tour. This means we toured the base while on our bus. This is an old base, being constructed between 1894 and 1896.
A large aircraft-assembly building was built at the beginning of World War II. In this building, 531 B-29 Superfortress were built. These included the Enola Gay and Boxcar, the two B-29s assigned to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
Another impressive part of the base was General Row, a street of houses which serves as housing for the many general officers assigned to Offutt.
The name of Major General Dan Karbler appeared on our itinerary as the Chief of Staff of STRATCOM and our official host for the entire tour. He is a graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point, plus he is an artillery officer.
This was of interest to me, because I graduated from Artillery Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, OK and was also an artillery officer. Col William Carle was accompanied our group on the entire tour. I asked him if the general might be willing to part with one of his coins? The colonel told me to ask him during the evening meal.
Finally, we headed for an evening meal in Omaha. We were greeted by MG Karbler.
“I’ve been anxious to visit with you all day,” I told him.
“Is it about this,” he said, as he pulled his Chief of Staff coin from his pocket.
“How did you know?” I asked.
“I have good staff,” he said, meaning my question about the coin was passed along to him before we arrived.
The meal was a steak dinner at an Omaha restaurant. The steak was delicious and tender. My understanding and admiration of Nebraska beef has increased.
As we approached our hotel after supper, there was a field of grass with a wild turkey hen attending to her pullets. Finally, Nebraska wildlife had made an appearance. When asked about deer, a hotel employee said deer can be seen often in the grassy areas and corn fields.
We headed home early the next day. It was a fast and informative trip. Now it is apparent to me why Americans can sleep well every night.
While it is impressive to be able to visit with the colonels and generals of a unit, it is always the individual airmen, working the various jobs required to keep the aircraft in the air, feed the troops, reporting the weather, maintaining security etc., who stand out as the extraordinary element of the Air Force and our other armed forces. They make me proud.