SMDC History: "Operation Rocking Force"

By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianFebruary 13, 2018

SMDC History: "Operation Rocking Force"
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command began January with a celebration of a new beginning with the 60th anniversary of Explorer I. In this date in history, the command will look at the beginning of an end. On this date, Feb. 15, 1976, the U.S. Army Safeguard Command initiated Operation Rocking Force.

The project involved a team of personnel. In addition to the military police company at the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex near Grand Forks, North Dakota, the team included personnel from the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Defense Systems Command, U.S. Army Forces Command Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Carson, Colorado, and airmen from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.

This operation addressed the removal and disposal of the all of the Safeguard missile warhead sections, including all classified missile components. Once the specified equipment was removed from each missile or group of missiles, closely monitored helicopter convoys ferried the equipment to the waiting cargo planes to be transported to various Army depots across the country.

According to the original planning documents, this mission would take approximately 14 weeks to complete. About half of the 30 weeks allotted for the complete removal of the missiles in the five Safeguard missile fields.

In fact, Operation Rocking Force was completed in 10 weeks. The coordination was "extremely successful" and realized a cost savings.

"This helicopter and C-141 operation was conducted in a timely and truly outstanding manger by all Army and Air Force personnel involved," said Maj. Gen Bennett Lewis, commander, Armament Materiel Command. "Coordination between Air Force and Mickelsen Safeguard Complex personnel and FORSCOM operating units permitted positioning and de-positioning of mission essential equipment and personnel on Military Airlift Command aircraft and afforded completion of airlifts on a an accelerated schedule."

The last flight, originally scheduled for late May, was completed on April 29. By early May, all support personnel and equipment had returned to their home stations. At the end of Operation Rocking Force, the MP company was terminated with the personnel assigned to asset protection roles.

The next phase began soon thereafter with the removal and storage of the propulsion and control assemblies of the Sprint and Spartan missiles, followed by the 1st and 2nd stage removal.

Per guidance from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the entire Sprint and Spartan inventory was to be retained. A total of 149 missiles would be placed in storage marking the end of the Safeguard era.

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