After partaking of the much-heralded post Ball mission food spread, never seen in the Amber hangar, I was trucked to the Amber hangar. There I was to live and work. In the hangar were three groups of people associated with Rivet Amber. They were the flight crew officers, the civilian tech reps and the NCOs who were either flight crew or ground crew. The civilians represented three companies. There was a team from LTV in Greenville, Texas. LTV did the Rivet Amber modifications. Their responsibilities were the equipment interfaces and the auxiliary equipment such as the chiller and the APU. (See The Lisa Ann Story.) Representing LTV were W.D. Smith (deceased), Dick Hestor, Ken Nunn (deceased), Ed Perkins (He was called Tupelo since he proudly hailed from Tupelo, Mississippi.), Mr Bill Caldwell, the most respected of the tech reps by the Air Force officers and NCOs, and Glen Cook (deceased) who was renowned for always betting out of order when he held a good poker hand. They rotated every 3 months. The team from Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, Ca consisted of two groups. The first Hughes group was on Shemya in the fall of 68 and spring of 69. It included Bob Kubo, Logan Delp, Dick Maddux, Jim McConnell and Bob Seymore. Members of the second group that spent the winter of 69 on Shemya were Jerry Wirz, Bud Rice, Mert Cannady and John Fader. Hughes built the radar on the plane. As such they maintained it while on the island. They also rotated every three months. I, the only Litton rep, luckily got to stay the whole time Rivet Amber was operational at Shemya.
All in all there was a sequence of four NCOs from the 55th SRW on TDY to Shemya assigned to the LN16 when Amber was deployed on Shemya, Sep 68 to June 69. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the first NCO even though I can see him in my mind's eye. His successors in order of their stay on Shemya were TSgt Jay C. Nottingham, SSgt McCool and SSgt Frank Mastrilli. TSgt Nottingham used to cut my hair. During his TDY Lt. Col O'Neill (Jumbo) took over from Col Ratto. The flight crew officers knew O'Neill to be a nervous Nelly and we tech reps rubbed him wrong. (In his eyes we were overpaid and no more capable than the blue suiters.) The winter shift of the Hughes tech reps all decided to grow beards. The colonel hated this. He held a meeting with the tech rep leaders of which I was one by default. (I was the only Litton tech rep on the island.) He said the beards had to go. The Hughes tech rep supervisor took this without demurring. Even though clean shaven my ex-enlisted man recalcitrance rose up and I asked the colonel if this was official policy since there were employees at Litton who had beards. I needed to inform Litton that they were not to be sent to Shemya. The colonel backed off and said that the tech reps could keep their beards but would not be allowed to fly on Amber because the beards would interfere with the oxygen masks. This was a hollow disqualification since we never flew. I couldn't keep well enough alone. I said, "After all, Abe Lincoln had a beard". One of the officers said, "so does Castro!" Even though I was clean shaven I did have sideburns down to the bottom of my ears. I told TSgt Nottingham to shorten them when he next cut my hair. He said to keep them. They bugged the colonel.
As tech reps we were given the equivalent rank of captain. This was heady stuff for an ex-enlisted man. I had only made E-4 when I was in the service. And this came so close to when I was separated from service that I never did sew the extra stripe on any of my uniforms except the one I wore at the separation ceremony. Besides when I was "in" it usually took 10 years for an officer to make captain in contrast to today's 3 years. As an officer equivalent we tech reps roomed and dined with the officer crewmembers. The pilots were the patricians. They had the most responsibility, were for the most part the oldest and had strict obligations to be rested. When something struck them funny they would grin, if it were hilarious they would chuckle. No horse laughs out of these guys. The co-pilots of course were patricians in waiting. They aspired to have the demeanor of the pilots but they could be tempted into the poker games and the volleyball games. The navigators were my nemesis. They used my company's equipment and if I got on their nerves they at least could get some joy in "writing up" the LN16. When a new navigator came into the unit I would ask him what he got his undergraduate degree in. If he said English my heart would sink. These people are trained to criticize. The ravens worked the closest with the tech reps and thus associated with them the most. After a span of 35 years I could recall only the names of a couple of pilots, no navigators but many of the ravens (Rudy Meissner, Horace Beasly, Dunc Wilmore, Dick "Riverboat" Reeves, Russ Howard and Bob Monroe). There had to be some distinction besides uniforms to differentiate between the real officers and the faux officers. And there was. It was how we got to and from the chow hall. The officers rode in a truck and the tech reps rode on the shuttle bus with the NCOs. There was a reason, though, besides snobbery. All the officers were flight crew and had to be able to get back to the hangar and on the aircraft as expeditiously as possible. Occasionally I would get to ride in the truck and after I did I delighted in starting a conversation with another tech rep saying, "When I rode in the truck today…"