I joined the Army in 1973 and went to Ft. Monmouth NJ to become a
tactical microwave operator and repairman (26L20). One of the primary
systems that I learned was (AN-GRC 143) multi-channel tropo scatter
microwave radio system.
I spent my 3 year enlistment stationed in Ft Lewis WA, in the 268th
Signal Company TL (Tropo Light). We went on field exercises on a regular
basis and one of those trips was to the Big Mountain White Alice site in
Our mission to support a bigger military exercise by providing phone a
data communications link from King Salmon, to Big Mountain, to what I
remember as Anchorage but the memory fades. Anchorage is too far of a
shot to make sense. My memory say's 140 miles was as far as we could get
with 1kw, 4.4 to 5.0Ghz, with 10 foot dishes.
Our instructions were to be totally self supporting, to introduce
ourselves to the RCA personnel, and not to interfere with them. We (I
think just the NCO's) were allowed a tour of the facilities but were
forbidden to take part in the invitation to join them in the day room
for any social or entertainment activities. I think our total group was
15 to 20 people in number.
We set our equipment up a short distance away from the site and began
transmitting configured as a relay site. I got to see and talk to the
RCA guys as much as anyone on the trip I suppose because I had
volunteered to act as an amateur radio operator which I was not, but
since I enjoyed the companies HF and was a CB operator I got the duty.
With a Collins amateur set I ran phone patches back to the Ft. Lewis
MARS station. I was set up in an equipment shed of some sort just
outside of the dorm entrance. At this site all the facilities were on
top of the mountain. A7USA rings a bell and I also got some guidance
from someone with the call sign Moose that was in the area.
I don't really even remember if it was 1974 or 1975. I don't remember
what season it was but there was no snow and we didn't have Artic gear
issued. But I do remember it was cold and always blowing like crazy and
often clouded of fogged in. The 10 foot parablems that we used came in
quarter sections and as we were assembling them a gust darn near lifted
me from the ground a swept me down the mountain with quarter section in
The memory of almost being swept off the mountain and the memory of
landing in the C-130 Hercules are probably the clearest memories I have.
I wasn't a pilot at the time and had little experience in the air. But I
remember touching down right on the threshold, and the pilot throwing
the props into full reverse and throttling back up to the point where
the strain against the seatbelts was significant and we all watched each
other with wide eyes are we peered at our vehicles squatting under the
loads put on the tie down chains. Wow!
The RCA guys were great. The equipment and scale of design intrigued me.
10 kw klystrons! 60 foot or bigger antennas! A locomotive engine driving
the power plant, and all hundreds of miles form civilization. The area
was wild enough that the local fox wasn’t scared of people. Now that's