Leaving Guam On A Jet Plane

The equipment we maintained at the Naval Communications Station on Guam was the latest and most sophisticated available in one sense and not so complex in another. But it was what the Navy had at the time and they used it to spy on the world: secret encrypted messages, Russian missile launchings, radar communications sites and a multitude of others, among them, simple, almost archaic Chinese digital communications. Then there were our own people: the news media, telephone and short wave communications, and others.

The reason myself, Juan Trujillo, John Proza, Orion Larson and others were there is the equipment would fail at times and the operators would call down to the Electronics Shop in the basement and ask one of us to come to the third floor and get it going.

The first step would be to discuss the problem with the operator present and many times, while explaining the problem, the operator would notice something he had overlooked and take care of the problem on the spot. But there were times when the problem was real and you had to fix it.

The typical procedure would be to plant your body directly in front of a seven by three foot piece of electronics equipment then reach down to the bottom most drawer and turn the power switch off then back on – a crude sort of rebooting the system as is done these days with computers. If that didn’t work we would open the power supply drawer and close it, and might slam it closed if the first step didn’t work.

There were a number of first checks and if none of those worked we would finally drag out the Oscilloscope and start trouble shooting the beast. But that was always the last resort. We might go so far as to remove one or more vacuum tubes, bend the small pins on each base then replace the tube or tubes before reverting to such drastic measures as a technical manual and the O-Scope.

When it came time to leave Guam, Juan turned toward me as we were all standing outside waiting on a bus to take us to the airport. We had our dark green duffle bags at our side, some lying on the ground, others standing up with a hand grasping a handhold as if the person was afraid the bag might get away with all his stuff.

Juan was one of those individuals. He appeared nervous, a little fidgety and said, “Boy, I sure dread going back to the States!”

I had ulcers in my mouth: on each side, top and bottom. I couldn’t sleep at night and was daydreaming every second about the options that might be available to me once I was out of the Navy. I couldn’t wait to set my foot back on some good old solid North American soil and even turned down a rather large reenlistment bonus to have that chance.

I told Juan. I said, “Juan, you’re crazy. I can’t wait to get back home! Besides, I’ve got a woman back there and I haven’t seen her in a year.”

Juan talked slow, with the remnants of a long ago Spanish accent, but didn’t hesitate. Wagging his head, he said, “Well, I want to go back home too. But it’s the flight back there that scares me.”

My face took on a puzzled look. “W…what do you mean, the flight back home?” I asked him, as the two of us exchanged glances. “How else are you going to get back there? Hell, it’s six thousand miles to San Francisco, Juan.”

“I know that,” the Mexican American shot back, “but aren’t we going to be flying on a C141?

“Yes, but…”

“And that’s an Air Force plane, right?” Juan went on, not allowing me to finish.

“Yeah but…what does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, You know how we maintain this electronics equipment. You know the Air Force men do the same thing!”

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