Final missile maintenance class graduates

By Sharon Watkins Lang (SMDC/ARSTRAT Historian)December 15, 2015

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Under the original concept, the deployed SAFEGUARD system would encompass multiple sites across the nation. The specialized training needed to operate and maintain the unique components of these state-of-the-art facilities would require a dedicated educational program.

The SAFEGUARD Central Training Facility, or SCTF, developed at Biggs Air Force Base/Fort Bliss, Texas, was designed to meet the needs of this sensitive program.

In addition to administration facilities, the SCTF included mock missile silos, multiple labs for hands-on training in electrical systems, power generation, mechanics, radar electronics, etc. Given "the highly classified nature" of the SAFEGUARD program, special provisions were made to create sound-proof, secure classrooms. According to historian Russell Sackett, the classrooms had no windows and special sound proofing and security baffling were added to the air ducts and attics, at the same time no outlets were installed back-to-back to prohibit the installation of listening devices.

By 1973, the SCTF was ready to begin instruction. The first class arrived in August 1973 for the 24-week SAFEGUARD Staff Officers Course and in September 1973 for the 26-week SAFEGUARD Missile Maintenance Technician/Specialist Course for enlisted personnel. Upon graduation, students transferred to the SAFEGUARD site near Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Even as construction continued and before classes began, in January 1973 the SCTF was identified to be disestablished. Over the years, financial concerns had significantly reduced the SAFEGUARD deployment. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty further restricted the missile defense program to two and later only one site. With fewer sites, the number of personnel needing training dropped dramatically. As a result, in 1974, the SAFEGUARD Training Facility merged with the U.S. Army Air Defense School becoming the SAFEGUARD Division of the General Support Material Department. With the continued reductions, subsequent plans saw the training mission transferring to the Stanley R. Mickelsen SAFEGUARD Complex itself.

Between 1973 and December 1975, the SCTF conducted 13 courses; training a total of 133 students. Deactivation of the SCTF began on Dec. 17, 1975, following the graduation of the final missile maintenance class. This class of eight Soldiers was to augment existing missile crews at the SAFEGUARD complex. Their mission was to accomplish Operation Rocking Force -- the dismantlement of the SAFEGUARD missile complex, ordered by Congress.

With the conclusion of classes at Fort Bliss, the SCTF staff -- 18 military, 27 civilians and six contractors, all of whom would find new positions on Fort Bliss -- began the process of deactivating the organization. Training aids and documentation relevant to the Perimeter Acquisition Radar were transferred to that facility in North Dakota. To assist with the deactivation of the missile fields, the Sprint loader and the Universal Transporter Loader were also sent to North Dakota. Meanwhile, tactical equipment that could support possible Sprint and Spartan firing programs were put into storage. The remaining equipment, meanwhile, became the property of the U.S. Army Air Defense School. By the end of June 1976, the process was complete and the SCTF ceased to exist.

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