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Veterans Memories of H3

From Roland Gahn, summer 55 to summer 56 There was only one barracks building completed when I arrived and the radio guys worked out of the back of a 6 x 6 truck for a while after I arrived. We had to use a generator which was pulled by the truck for power. There was no radome yet.

I believe I was there a little over a year because I was the only radio operator left and they were having a hard time getting a replacement to come to H3. The other radio operator I came with left a month before I did. I left the same day my orders arrived and did not have much time to pack. The radio guys at Rockville met me at the airport and took me to H2 for a party and I almost missed my flight to the states the next day.

I recalled a humorous incident that happened to me while I was at H3.. I come from a small town in Louisiana called Mamou. It is on the edge of Cajun Country and french is the prevalent language of the day.

One evening while I was having a beer in the NCO club after evening mess, sitting on the only stool we had at the bar (a draftsman stool) I looked in the mirror behind the bar and saw a young man from my hometown entering the club. He had just come in with the mail and supply run. Now my hometown has about 2500 people in it so the chances of having two cajuns from Mamou whose families lived on the same block, was a million to one shot. Yet here he was a new replacement. If forget what his specialty was but he was one confused fellow. After a few beers and he began to relax, he asked me "Hey Fish! Where we at?" I had to give up the stool because the rule was if you fell out of it you lost it. Remember the cry: " Hey Candyass! You done with the stool!" That was a cartoon we kept behind the bar for a while. I think the redheaded CO made us get rid of it.

--------------------------------------------------------------- From: Joe Pyrdek 1967/1968

In the strange coincidences department, when I was about nine months completed at H-3, a new maint. tech came in. He was Phil Locas, a guy that enlisted at the same time I did from my home town, Erie, PA and we went throgh basic togeter. We were then assigned to Keesler together but once there I went through the basic part of the course in six weeks and so I beat him out of Biloxi by three or four months. Imagine my surprise when he shows up two years later at Hofn! Guess who ended up training him. I never heard from him again once I left.

------------------------------------------------------------- From: Pete Lester - Dec 84 to Dec 85

When I was there (Dec '84 to Dec '85) there was a site mascot. A golden colored sheepdog named Rosie. Valdi had brought her to the site to live when she was a pup, she was about 11 to 13 years old when I was there. Her job was to chase the sheep off the site as they would destroy the sod and turf that had been put between the buildings. If you said "Rosie Sheep" she would bark aggressively and wanted to get out of the building and chase them. She was fearless and I personally watched her fight off a big ram one summer day. Rosie slept in the Officer's quarters and it just so happened she was used to sleeping in the room I was assigned since it was near the door towards CE. So for a year part of my job was to let Rosie in at night and let Rosie back out in the morning. In the morning Rosie would go out and sit on the sidewalk and wait for Valdi and the other civilians to arrive. She spent her days in and out of the CE office. Valdi loved her. Rosie was a bilingual dog, undertanding commands in both Icelandic and English. Rosie lived a long life being fed scraps from the dining hall. Mid way through my tour the NCO in charge of the kitchen rotated out. The new NCOIC felt it was against regulations to feed the dog. He was adamant. I finally convinced him that the regulations could be bent on a remote outpost. I pointed out that the Site Commander, myself and Valdi as well as most of the guys on the site loved the dog and that if he persisted in denying Rosie's daily feedings he would be making a career decision. Needless to say he came around to our way of thinking. When we had mail call they sound the siren and everytime the siren would go off Rosie would add her howls to tells us the mail was in the boxes. I think Rosie was a real morale booster and I know that she helpd ease the transition for the newbies. She was nice to have around and I missed her when I left.

----------------------------------------------------------------- From: Clark Wigley--------Nov 1976-77

Colonel Clark Wigley, Professor of Aerospace Studies, Air Force ROTC, North Dakota State University in Fargo. I am an alumnus of H-3 from Nov of 1976 to Nov 1977. I also had the privilege of being the commander of the 932d at Rockville from 1993-1995. What can be said about Hofn--interesting work in the the days of the Cold War; boredom in the long, dark days of winter; good people, common goals (survive six months and then go on leave)--what a flood of memories! I have read the accounts of Valdi and Rosey and actually shed a tear or two. Valdi is a special guy with a heart of gold under that gruff exterior. He knows what the United States stands for and often reminded me how lucky we were to be from such a country. During the time I was at Hofn, the Communists had won a majority in the Icelandic parliament and Hofn was one of their strongholds. There were always little articles in the local papers poking a sharp stick in America's eye. One such article really upset Valdi. It was right after Christmas of 1976 and we had hosted the traditional party for the Hofn kids. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared in the local paper contending we had "poisoned" the local kids with our candy and Cokes--Valdi was incensed! He said, "don't worry about those Mojacks, they wouldn't know a good deal if it bit them in the ass!" I lived on the end of the BOQ next to Civil Engineering so Valdi would stick his head in the door and see if I was in my room and then holler to get to work if I was!! When I was at Hofn, Rosie was only about 1-2 years old and was one of the friendliest animals I have ever seen. She always seemed to be in trouble and "the farmer" was always threatening to do away with her if she chased the sheep one more time. Rosie spent many a night in my room or in the hall outside when she smelled too bad. One of the things I always received from my wife in "care package "(besides 30 day old brownies!!) was a box of dog biscuits for Rosie. She knew that I was always good for a handout. She even liked to chase a tennis ball up and down the hallway--amazing what you do to pass the time when the wind is blowing 80 knots--hey guys, remember those nights? Ah, yes, the weather, I never really got used to it. Even during my second tour at Rockville. I cursed it every day when I had to do the "Hofn lean" to get from the BOQ to the chow hall or to ops. I will never forget being told that new mattresses had arrived and that we needed to take our old ones to supply and exchange them. Well, who would of thought that would become an adventure? It was a beautifully sunny day, but the wind was blowing out of the northeast at about 40 knots. I stepped out of the east end of the BOQ with my hands tightly gripping the little handles on the mattress, took two steps and the next thing I knew I was rolling end-over-end on a mattress of course alternately hitting the ground when the mattress was not under me. After that I wasn't sure a new mattress was what I needed! Another memory during my stay at Hofn were the seemingly long days and nights of then Soviet TU-95, Bear D activity. I loved and hated this routine because it always seemed that it was late at night or early in the morning. With only a couple controllers to handle the daily flying and the Bear activity it became a long day after the Soviets had transited to Cuba or going home to the Soviet Union. I remember one stint of about 40 hours straight on console (eating, sleeping when you and downing 25-30 Diet Dr. Peppers) when they were conducting one of their infamous "SpringEx" brew-hahs-hahs. What a life. After it was all over we looked forward to a great breakfast and nap before the morning training flights started. I could go on for a long time but no one would read it. Hofn was a great experience for a young officer. It made me grow up real quickly. I learned a lot from guys like Rick Kaseman (ops training), Byron Ihle (DO), Al Schukle (DO), Steve Miller (a fellow Lt) and Mel Gibson (our CC for the first 6 months). I made some wonderful friends with whom I still correspond. I shall never forget the commitment of the men that made it all happen--men who left their families behind to serve their countries in arguably the toughest conditions in the world. I visited Hofn for perhaps the last time in May of 1995 after it had closed and the new FPS-117 radar was in place. It was sad to see all the old buildings deteriorating and the metal rusting onto the then cream colored paint. As I looked through the windows of some of the old dorms and the HQ I could still visualize the people and the place I spent the longest but perhaps the most fruitful year of my life. God bless you all. Clark Wigley, Colonel, USAF Commander, AFROTC Det 610 Box 5287 North Dakota State University Fargo, ND 58104 701-231-7949 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- From Sid Rowley...Sept 73 to Sept 74

I was stationed at H-3 from Sep 73 to Sep 74. I was a MSgt when I arrived and a SMSgt when I left. That happened to three of us at the same time. Just a wee bit unusual. I was the Operations Training NCOIC. Fancy title for not the toughest job in the world. While there H-3 had the distinction of making the 1000th intercept of the overflying Russian Bear a/c. Myself and another fellow H-3er (SSgt Vernon Romskog[Rummy]) survived the crash of our Navy resupply bird C-117D. This was the day before Thankgiving 1973.Rummy was on the way to Kef to visit some friends and I was being sent by the site medics to the hospital for a bad strep throat that could not be cured at H-3. About 25 to 30 minutes after takeoff from Hofn, we entered heavy clouds and experienced moderate turbulence and heavy icing. Believe this! Both engines lost power and stopped. Talk about the sound of silence!!! We broke out of the clouds at approximately 2500 ft and fortunately were over the beach near the town of Vik. The pilots slid the a/c onto the beach. Best landing I have ever been involved with. Finally rescued some time later by a helo and taken to the base hospital at Kef. When examined by the Doc's I did not have strep nor any sign of a sore throat. Adrenalin??? We did lose another C-117D while I was there. It was on takeoff when the crosswinds just slammed it into the ground. Once again no injuries. H-3 was one of the better assignments I have had in 26 years for Blue. A lot of good memories about that place, from the F-4 bubble checks to the bringing about 19 WAF's from Kef to spend a few days with us. Our CO at the time wasn't crazy about having them at the site but we percevered and everyone had a good time.

HD "Sid" Rowley CMSgt, USAF (Ret) kingsct8@aol.com

......................................................................From Chuck Casale Dec76/77

I served much the same time at Hofn as Clark Wigley and I can't say much more than he has about Valdi and Rosie. I was very pleased to find this web page and learn that Valdi has lived such a long and full life and pleasantly surprised to see Peter Lester's comments regarding Rosie from '84-'85. She was a great dog! I arrived there as a young man with a family and felt that this one year assignment would be the worst of my life. The more senior veterans constantly reminded that this was not so bad and that I would actually look back on the time at Hofn and mostly remember the good times. I was distraught and thought them to be out of their minds. As I mentioned, my mental attitude did not start out too well and was amplified by the fact that I arrived there just before Christmas 1976. I did not look forward to Christmas, I actually dreaded it. I felt that nothing could lift the dark cloud that was about to ruin my favorite holiday. On Christmas Eve there was a sort of diner party at the NCO club. Other than mission essential personnel, we all attended. Some of the officers and more senior NCO's gave short speeches. When they finished a Sra. named Paul took the microphone and began what I recall as the best stand up routine I've ever seen. He had a quick eye to catch people's idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and habits. I think he spent at least an hour if not more just spewing out humorous observations, one after the other and had the room in stitches. At the beginning of the evening I was sure that I would be in tears, I couldn't have foreseen that they would be tears of laughter. I'm sure some people were insulted but I don't think that was Paul's intent. He was just being funny and thrived on the laughter. He had a goal of becoming a comedian and in many ways emulated the late Freddie Prinze. He is Paul Rodriquez and has become quite famous in his own right and has achieved his goals, at least in my eyes. I thank all of the people that I served with at Hofn and a special thanks to Paul for that evening and his friendship. The senior vets were right....... I do mostly remember the good times!

Regards,

Chuck Casale

SSgt. Hofn, Iceland Dec 8, 1996 - Dec 7, 1997 - chcasale@aol.com ---------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------