From: Jack Cook  jcook56050 at
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 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

Buskin River Transmitter Site, Communications Station, Kodiak Alaska, 1979
I am on the front row and first on the left. Those are two of our Navy transmitters (built in 1953) behind us.

[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.

Kodiak Base 1978
The Coast Guard base in 1978 taken by public relations officer.

C130 Hercules Kodiak
Number 1600, almost brand new, sparkling clean, and ready for action.

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.]

Official coffee mug design
Chief sized mug.

HH-3 Over Kodiak
Number 1467, a Sikorski HH-3F medium range rescue helicopter practicing flight near Kodiak. The "Pelican" was considered a real workhorse. It had twin gas turbine jet engines, a top speed of 157 mph, and a range of 700 miles. (photo courtesy of U. S. Coast Guard 1979).

Number 1467 was seen at Janesville, WI, Mechanics school 2005 November and in 2004.

Number 1397, an HH-52A "Sea Guardian" amphibious short range rescue helicopter returns from a mission near Kodiak. It had one gas turbine jet engine, a top speed of over 100 mph, and a range of 255 miles. The HH-52 frequently landed on the rear decks of 210 foot medium endurance and 378 foot high endurance Coast Guard cutters. Old Womens Mountain and the main aviation hanger are in the background. (photo courtesy of U. S. Coast Guard 1979).

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.

WLB-297 Ironwood bouy tender
USCG 180 foot buoy tender "Ironwood" at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. Ironwood, WLB-297, served in the USCG from 1943 to 2000, and was stationed at Kodiak Base as an ATON tender from May 1st, 1979 to her decommissioning in 2000. She currently serves as a training vessel with the U. S. Department of the Interior Jobs Corps Maritime Training Program in Astoria, Oregon. (photo courtesy of U. S. Coast Guard, 1979).

WHEC-719 Boutwell 378 foot cutter
USCG cutter "Boutwell," WHEC-719 docks at Kodiak Base during a mission off the Alaskan coast in 1979. Boutwell was then stationed at Seattle, Washington. Not long after this photograph was taken, she conducted the largest at-sea rescue ever attempted, when she rescued more than 500 people from the burning cruise ship Prisendam, in the Gulf of Alaska. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

Securing Boutwell
Seaman Gloria Eastridge secures USCG cutter Boutwell to the main docks at Kodiak Base. Seaman Eastridge was one of the very few single, enlisted Coast Guard women on base at the time. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

WHEC-726-Midgett 2a
USCG cutter "Midgett," WHEC-726 docked at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

Push the fender
Seven Coast Guard members of Kodiak Base play a game with a ship fender and high pressure fire hoses during Morale Day activities. Children of local Coasties look on. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

Sleeping Nose to Nose.jpg
Two C-130 Hercules aircraft rest face-to-face during the night in the Main Hanger at USCG Base Kodiak. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

C-130 returns
USCG C-130 Hercules taxis to the tarmac at Kodiak Base after performing a mission off the Alaskan coast. The C-130 is considered by many experts in aviation to be the most successful airframe in history. Its amazing multi-role mission capabilities make it an ideal workhorse for the varied requirements of the Coast Guard. Thousands have been produced since 1953 by Lockheed-Martin. The C-130H models (current at the time this photo was taken) had a range of more than 3,400 miles. Its maximum speed was 375 mph and its large payload bay allowed it to carry heavy objects or significant amounts of equipment. By changing the flight configuration, engine settings, power, and prop feathering, Coast Guard pilots can extend the search and rescue loitering time of the C-130, thus allowing extra time to accomplish a particular task. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

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.

Loran Tower
The million watt Loran C tower at Narrow Cape during sunset. There were two transmitters in the building of which one was always active. Loran personnel were taken by van to the remote site from Kodiak Base for a one week tour of duty, and the previous crew was returned to Base. The trip of about sixty miles along Pasagshak Road was a long, winding, rough journey that could get somewhat treacherous during icy weather. Range cattle roamed freely in the Pasagshak area, and Kodiak bears occasionally took advantage of a free lunch while hunting the hillsides. Techs used to joke that the signal was so strong from the tower that some folks could hear the broadcast through their tooth fillings. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

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)

Enlisted Barracks
Enlisted barracks number 1 and 2. There were two men or women per room with a shared bath. Those who couldn't sleep while the sun was up for twenty hours in the Summer would simply tape aluminum foil over their windows. The gedunk (galley) is the door on the far right and one door down was the Base Bar. Personnel could take advantage of a weight room, a pool, and a small ice cream bar across the parking lot. Motion pictures were also available at the theatre behind the galley. A group of structures dating back to World War II could be explored on the small hills in the background.

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.

Crazy Crew
A rare day with the "Crazy Crew" on top of Old [Womens] Mountain. It's sunny, it's warm, and you can actually see all the way to the horizon. That's Kodiak town in the far distance. Just to our right is the local, civilian airport and runway near Barometer Mountain. The USAF [White Alice] Station can be seen on the top of the mountain above Kodiak. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

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.

Final output tube AN/FRT-40
The final output tube for the AN/FRT-40 AM 40,000 watt transmitter taken from a unit at the Buskin River Transmitter Site. This unit has the outer cooling sheathing removed. The tube stands about 16 to 18 inches in height and was designed before 1953. It was very rare to have one of these tubes burn out. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

USCG Firetruck Engine 2
USCG Kodiak Base Fire Engine number 2. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

USCG Firetruck Engine 19
USCG Kodiak Base Fire Engine number 19. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

Transmitter floor
Interior view of Buskin River Transmitter building, Kodiak, Alaska. This is the main transmitter floor in 1979. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook).

Transmitter floor labeled
1. Control Booth 2. AN/FRT-39 Transmitter housing 3. Old ceramic insulators for output to antennas (no longer used) 4. AN/FRT-89 transmitters 5. Electrical power breaker room 6. Passage to front office, galley, and main entrance 7. Basketball hoop for R & R 8. Electrically insulated rubber mat 9. Coax distribution hub 10. Cables from transmitter final output amplifier (runs into basement and over to coax distribution hub) 11. Red light indicates active unit 12. Frequency generator and tuning stack 13. Final output amplifier stack 14. AN/FRT-40 Transmitter

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.

Booth, hub, transmitter
Transmitter control booth, coax distribution hub, and AN/FRT-39 radio transmitter inside the Buskin River Transmitter building. The posters on the wall were reminders of the duties of a military sailor. (photo courtesty of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

Late night with a transmitter
ET3 Cook during a late night, off duty visit to the Buskin River Transmitter building (note civilian clothing). The transmitter is an AN/FRT-39. The mission was to take photographs of the building and equipment, and the meter is reading nothing in particular, except perhaps skin conductivity. (Goodness, I don't remember being that young!) (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

Kodiak Mountains
View up the valley with the Buskin River Transmitter Antenna array visible in the distance. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980).

Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church in Kodiak, Alaska in the Spring of 1980. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1980)

Buskin River Transmitter Site exterior
Buskin River Transmitter Site exterior. This unit was the final broadcast output for USCG Communication Station NOJ, Kodiak, Alaska. The building was all concrete, steel, and ceramic construction, and was surrounded by multiple [transmission] towers of varying heights and capabilities. The interior equipment consisted of about 40 large AM transmitters of varying power, signal distribution equipment, receiver equipment, and full facilities for electronic testing and maintenance which included a fully grounded maintenance cage (entirely enclosed by solid sheet metal to block out all EMF interference). Also included was an emergency electrical generator used when power was cut off from outside sources. Voice and data signals were received by landline or microwave from Tech Control at building #576. Buskin River was isolated inside a surrounding valley of mountains and its signals could be heard all around the Pacific Northwest region and beyond depending on atmospheric conditions. (photo courtesy of ET3 Jack Cook, 1979).

Road to Transmitter Site & Lake
Buskin River Road (paved)

Buskin Valley
Part of the Valley and one of the 300 foot towers.

Resident at Buskin River
A resident of Buskin River Transmitter Site. This one had no official USCG function.

Great Buskin River Raft Race

updated 2013 April 24