By Ruth QuinnApril 11, 2014
In 1970, the nation's attention was focused on Vietnam. Few took note of the day that a new field station was established just north of Augsburg, Germany, near the village of Gablingen, in the midst of Bavaria. It was one of nearly 20 field stations positioned strategically around the world during the Cold War. The newest Army Security Agency (ASA) fixed site would remain in operation seven days a week, 24 hours a day, until September 1993, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union.
The Commanding General of ASA commissioned a study in 1967 to consider consolidation of resources to save money and manpower. Augsburg was chosen as the ideal site for both technical and logistic reasons. When Field Station Augsburg, or FSA, was established by General Order, it was allocated 68 personnel. It would eventually absorb or replace three smaller field stations (Rothwestern, Herzongenaurach, and Bad Aibling), five company-sized border sites, seven small detachments from Denmark to norhtern Italy, and the headquarters of USASA Europe at Frankfurt. The Air Force and Navy also relocated small facilities to the site.
As the responsibilities and resources of FSA increased, a Troop Command was organized, consisting of Companies A, B, C, D, and E, effective 1 December 1971. Formal activation of the field station took place on 12 January 1972. In February of that year, the Border Site Command, which had been active since October 1971, was formally organized to control and support the numerous personnel scattered at 11 remaining remote border sites. In September 1972, a new 1000-man Gablingen Dining Facility opened. By the end of the year, the number of women serving at FSA was increasing dramatically and in January 1973, Company D was redesignated as a WAC company. September 1974 saw a major reorganization of the Field Station, when it converted to a battalion structure with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Operations Battalions, a Support Battalion and Forward Operations Battalion, and Communications and Supply/Maintenance Companies.
The most distinguishing characteristic of Field Station Augsburg was the large, circular array of antennas nicknamed the "Elephant Cage." In fact, the circular antenna array was called an AN/FLR-9 Circular Disposed Array Antenna developed during the Cold War for radio direction-finding of high priority targets. The worldwide network, known collectively as "Iron Horse," could locate high frequency communications almost anywhere on the planet. The enormous circular array at Augsburg covered 32 acres and had a diameter of more than 1,500 feet.
Personnel assigned to Field Station Augsburg were Morse Code, Teletype, Voice Intercept and Radio Direction Finding Operators as well as Traffic Analysts and Cryptanalysis/Cryptanalytic Technicians. Their mission was monitoring and interpreting military communications of Cold War enemy nations, their allies, and client states around the world. After the formation of the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in 1976, the US Army Security Agency Field Station Augsburg was
redesignated as the US Army Field Station Augsburg, effective May 1977. The old ASA field stations remained stand-alone organizations directly subordinate to Headquarters, INSCOM. In 1987, the units were redesignated as the 701st MI Brigade, with the 711th, 712th, 713th, and 714th MI Battalions. This initiative was designed to enhance unit esprit and morale, and to provide these units with appropriate designations that would be more familiar to the Army as a whole.
The distinctive unit insignia of Field Station Augsburg was approved on 23 November 1984, and redesignated for the 701st MI Brigade in January 1988. The symbolism of the insignia, according to the institute of heraldry, is as follows:
Teal blue and silver refer to the colors formerly used by the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). The key is taken from the INSCOM shoulder sleeve insignia and alludes to the unit's link in the command mission. The silver invected border with forty-eight indentations and the small disc at center refer to the type of antenna used by the unit as seen from above. The blue and white checky disc further suggests the unit's location in Bavaria. The lightning flashes refer to the worldwide electronic communications both friendly and hostile.