From: Jack Cook jcook56050 at aol.com Subject: Thanks for the memories
Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2008 23:24:02 -0600
Dear Mr. Stevens, I was stationed at U. S. Coast Guard Communications Station NOJ in Kodiak from March 1979 to July 1980. My designator was that of Electronics Technician Third Class. I was stationed at the Buskin River Transmitter Building (the antenna farm) located about five miles from the base out toward the lake. We helped to maintain and electronically route about 35 major transmitters putting out about 40,000 watts each (if I recall the numbers correctly). I think their designation was AN/FRT-40 (it's been a long time, so correct me if I'm wrong). Our branch served the needs of the main radio station downrange on the other side of the base. As I recall, there was the transmitter station, the central communications and administration building, and the radio station. They were widely spaced apart to prevent undue electromagnetic interference. Our group served as a day crew, and supplemented the Buskin site twenty four hours a day with one transmitter tech and one assigned seaman in our transmitter building at all times. The techs served 8 hours on, 8 hours off, 8 hours on, 8 hours off, and 8 hours on. We then got two days off. The assigned seamen (and women) were there for backup and safety, though mostly used as gophers. In cooperation with the administrators and with Lieutenant Terry Lott, the assistant commander of Com Sta Kodiak, I was asked to design the patch and insignia for the Communications Station. That image is the patch you have on your web site under the heading, "Communications Station." I still have the first patch and cup issued in my collection here at home. I wish I had appreciated my stay in Alaska more than I did. Being a single man and of a different mind set in those days, I probably missed some things that I should have enjoyed while on the island. I regret never having seen a Kodiak bear. However, I continue to have fond memories of the friends I made both on base and in Kodiak. And, I did manage to have some unusual adventures on the north and south ends of the island. I very much appreciated visiting your web pages. Brings back some great memories. Here are some "Official Coast Guard" images that you may find useful to your museum or web site. I have others if you are interested. Thank you. Very sincerely, Jack Cook, former U. S. Coast Guard Electronics Technician Nashville, TN.
From: Jack Cook jcook56050 at aol.com Subject: Corrections and additions Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008 15:21:26 -0600 Hi Joe, I have seen references to the AN/FRT-89 radio transmitter and the AN/FRT-39. I recall that we broadcast the Armed Forces Overseas Network feed on a 25 watt local frequency 24 hours a day for local military personnel. However, most of us preferred the NPR station broadcasting out of Kodiak or music purchased through the base store. Our transmitters at the Buskin River site were so old we used to joke that we held them together with chewing gum and twine. We actually did discover a bird's nest inside the cabinet of one of our transmitters during a maintenance procedure once. By all indications, at least one family of birds had somehow managed to escape our attention, and happily fly off into the valley. We often kept the large doors at the end of the building open, sometimes even during very cold weather due to the extreme heat generated by our transmitters. I don't think any Kodiak bear would have dreamed of coming into a room with that much noise. Every tech had to wear ear protection in the main room due to the noise made by all those cooling fans. I recall the tuning stacks were extremely squirrelly, and the process of tuning them was more akin to an art rather than a science. The average length of time before a re-tune was totally unpredictable. We wouldn't normally know that one of the units had slipped frequency until Tech Control had sent us a message. We ran through hundreds of old fashioned tubes while maintaining them. The administration's fondest wish was that Washington would someday approve funding to redesign those stacks with solid state technology. It never happened while I was there. The process of switching transmitters from one antenna to another was solid state (literally). We had some very solid hammers used to loosen up the connectors, pop them off, and hammer them back on the main routing hub, which was a large, steel board with [large coax cables] running under the building and out to the antennas. It was sometimes a real mind bender to figure the best route for a signal to run outside. The links did not always work properly, and the energy required to hammer those heavy links into the board was sometimes very draining. I always worried about the absolute power being emitted from all that equipment. One false move could kill someone. Luckily, our group never experienced any accidents while I was there. Our Chief Electronics officer was extremely safety conscious. And, everyone took extreme measures to make sure the power switches were locked off while servicing inside the transmitter. I don't know if it was true or not, but legend held that one Navy electronics tech had been killed while doing maintenance service one day many years before the Coast Guard took over the site. He had apparently gotten popped by a high voltage capacitor that had not been properly discharged when the cabinet was opened (more than 20,000 volts). The feeling was that he continued to haunt the transmitter building. And, sometimes at night, when nobody was around, and the seaman was sound asleep in the front office, some of us techs felt as if we were being watched by some unseen energy, especially up front in the gedunk (kitchen) where there was only one way in and one way out. Is it true? Heck, if it isn't, it sure makes for a good story. Under the building was a very large basement area where the [coax cables] ran through the upper floor and out to the different antennas outside. A sign on the ramp leading under the building prominently let everyone know that this area had been fortified and could be used as a fallout shelter. To drive home that fact, there were cases and boxes of survival crackers and rows and rows of survival water in tightly sealed green drums along one wall, all dated to the early 1960's. None of us ever took this ominous collection of sustenance with any seriousness. It was quite interesting to read the outside instructions on those containers with the hope that we never had to use them. (The crackers tasted awful but were chocked full of vitamins and minerals! And, you couldn't have paid me to drink the water.) Well, that's all for some of the memories that come to mind today. Jack
[this list updated 28 June 2009]
Back row: Lt. Terry L. Lott, CWO Dorman, Chief Electronics Technician Martin "Marty" Dukeshire, ET3 Karol, ET1 Wayne Tudor, unknown, ET2 Becker, MCPO Myers, LCDR R. E. Williams (Commanding Officer).
Front row: ET3 Jack Cook, ET3 J. R. "Junior" Elderts, ET3 Irwin, unknown (ET3 Speek?), SN Confrey, SN Eckel.
Lt. Terry Lott and Captain R. E. Williams were the commanding officers of the entire Communications Station. Their administrative offices were in Tech Control.
Chief Marty Dukeshire was in charge of the Buskin River Transmitter Site. He had transferred from the U. S. Navy Submarine Corps and became an electronics technician with the USCG. He played a very mean game of chess.
1982 JUL 30 Lockheed USCG HC-130 Hercules, 1600, was transporting personnel and cargo to the USCG LORAN station on the island of Attu, AK. VFR weather conditions deteriorated, forward visibility was lost, and the aircraft impacted with the terrain. Two of the crew died but the remainder of the crew escaped with injuries and survived. [From our crash page.]
Number 1467 was seen at Janesville, WI, Mechanics school 2005 November and in 2004.
Unlike today's Coast Guard helicopters, the HH-3F and HH-52A were designed to float in water. Supposedly, both designs could be theoretically towed to safety for recovery in case of engine failure. The floating capability was not often used as both aircraft were not stable in rough seas, and Coast Guard pilots considered the operation dangerous and unnecessary in most rescue situations.
I was told that one of the most coveted trips taken by C-130s from Kodiak Base were known unofficially as the "McDonald's run." There were no national fast food restaurants on the entire island. As a result, the weekly flight to Anchorage was entrusted with an order list for fast food items that were brought back for base personnel by volunteers who were lucky enough to be on the flight.
Narrow Cape Loran (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).
Loran Panel smiley face
Loran C status and monitor panel at Narrow Cape. The "smiley face" indicates
the radio signal output is good. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979)
Down time for some personnel was a rough period. Kodiak was considered semi-remote duty, and personnel who did not have vehicles found themselves having to improvise travel arrangements or just walk. There were only seven miles of pavement on the island in 1979. Besides the usual games of cards, there was always several games of Dungeons and Dragons circulating from room to room. The Christians on base were consistently developing activities at the base chapel for their members. However, the lack of familiar activity to many of the single Coasties, especially those from the city, could be quite a challenge. We witnessed the results of several mental breakdowns while I was on base, as much from the bad weather as from mental boredom and excessive consumption of alcohol. Of course, the opportunity for outdoor living was unlimited because 3/4 of the island was a wildlife reserve. Only native Alaskans were allowed to keep villages in the reserve area. When possible, we would find a way to travel into Kodiak just to see the town. There was a small museum, a Russian Orthodox Church, and several local businesses where we could have some fun such as the "Captain's Keg," a wonderful pizza parlor with old time motion pictures and hundreds of brands of beer. I was particularly impressed with the full sized ship that had been permanently grounded over on the edge of town. [The Star of Kodiak] I was told it was used as a cannery during the Summer. And, I often visited the Public Radio Station.
Weather? How about the first day I arrived at Kodiak Base? When my airplane touched the runway, I couldn't even see the runway. They transported me to BOQ over on the base to wait for my ride to the barracks. In the space of fifteen minutes, it rained, it snowed, it got sunny, and it became overcast. Average weather during my stay was one month of rain and overcast, one clear day, and another month of rain and overcast (or at least it seemed that way). Despite its rain storms, we never had lightning or thunder on Kodiak. We joked that Alaska's seasons were one month of Summer, one day of Fall, one day of Spring, and the rest was Winter. The absolute worst conditions were those times when it would rain, freeze over, rain again, and freeze over. It got so slick at times that I had to get out and literally push the front wheels of my Volkwagen Bug to aim it down the road (I'm not kidding!). We had one snow blizzard while I was there, and we were stranded at the Buskin River Transmitter site for a while until our relief could arrive.
A similar grouping of transmitters were on the other side of the Control booth. Inputs from Tech Control could be received by microwave or by landline and individually fed to any transmitter on the floor. Microwave inputs were usually compromised during a heavy snow. A large mirror can be seen near the basketball hoop, and another was mounted directly across the room. They were used for visual observation of transmitters and for safety. The main floor access door is not visible as it is on the camera's end of the building.