Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Minding my own business, eating a quiet lunch. Couple of guys in the adjacent booth are swapping stories:

"So, when my security clearance came through and the very first place they sent me was Site R[edacted]. 'It's an interesting place,' my boss said, "you'll like it.'

"We always entered at the [redacted]. That meant a long elevator ride with an armed escort in an elevator car with only two buttons, and he's the only one allowed to push them. I keep thinking we're almost there but it keeps going and going! When it finally does stop, it opens into this anteroom where another soldier is waiting, his gun at the ready. He really is ready to fire. As soon as we step out, he says, 'Halt!' and then, 'Escort, advance.'

"The soldier I'm with starts to walk towards him, so I do, too. The other soldier says, 'Civilian, HALT! Escort, advance,' and his finger is on the trigger. I stopped!

"He waits until the guy who brought me down is next to him, out of his line of fire, then asks him, without ever taking his eyes off me, 'Sergeant, are you under any form of duress?'

"Meanwhile, there I stand, thinking, 'I am one word away from being killed. '

"A month later, we had to go out there again. By then they'd hired another tech to be my assistant and I sent him instead of me. 'You'll like it,' I told him, 'it's an interesting place....'"

Man, the things you hear at lunch.


Ed Skinner said...

I briefly worked at a place where each visitor got a guy with an M-16 to keep them under constant personal surveillance including in the rest room in this ultra high secured area where even the private stall doors had been removed so you couldn't hide anything, no matter what. A co-visitor commented this was where he played "Texas Hold 'em" every day. (Location withheld.)

Tango Juliet said...

That's one way to define "interesting" I guess.

perlhaqr said...

I don't believe I would like working at that facility.

Guffaw in AZ said...

Nice they speak about this sooper-secret facility where they can be overheard.
Apparently, they didn't get the memo...

kishnevi said...

(Guffaw, did you read the link?)
There are times when our government seems a parody of a real one, and this is one of them.

Please do not touch the red buttons.

Roberta X said...

It's not that incautious. R[edacted] is not secret in the sense of being hidden; after the leaves fall, you can see at least one set of entrances from the freeway. But other than what you can see from the road or online satellite maps, Uncle Sam maintains strict control of information about it. Everything you read about it (aside trivia and from snarky comments about air quality, a chronic problem in any such facility) and every map or photo of the inside, Unk released.

It is, however, hardened and very secure; you can't take it offline by flying a commandeered airliner into it or chopping the power lines. And you're not going to Mission: Impossible your way in, either. (WTF you would do once you got in is another moot question; it's primarily a COG backup for the .mil and isn't even online unless a certain famous five-sided building is offline).

There's not a bit of it immune to a nice big H-bomb. Why, if I was a gummint, I'd have my routine-secret sites, for things like natural disasters and fat-headed terrorist attacks set up just like this one -- and if I had anything set up for DEFCON 0, I wouldn't say a thing about it, just let the real and hobbyist tinfoil hatters concentrate on the visible sites.

Anonymous said...

At my last job I worked at Site R, Mount Weather and a few of the ABC agencies. Sorry but the only drama was when an NCO warned me not to sit on his M203 on the back seat.

The spookiest was a place where they gave you a round bottomed radio. You had to press the talk bottom at all times on site. If you attempeted to put the radio down, or let go of the button, they sent the calvary.


Roberta X said...

(It's really sad that the workwear retailer of the same name isn't located nearby. Oh, well. And they don;t have logo T-shirts, either).

Bubblehead Les. said...

"First Rule of Fight Club..."

og said...

I've been in .gov manufacturing facilities with not quite as strict security, but still potentially very intimidating. Frankly, it's nice to see those .mil guys taking their job so seriously.

Cincinnatus said...

Meanwhile, Cheyenne Mountain is empty and idle.

Although you can still go to the Cheyenne Mountain zoo atop it. The monkey exhibit is notorious for its poo flinging monkeys, appropriately.

Cincinnatus said...

A bit more than three decades ago, I interviewed at a private company's facility in the Los Angeles area - not a military installation - for a software job that was probably about sonar processing s/w for attack subs. It had armed guards in front of every door in every hallway and signs that stated deadly force was authorized.

Needless to say I lost interest in the job.

Dave H said...

Robin: "Meanwhile, Cheyenne Mountain is empty and idle."

Do tell? When did this happen?

Discobobby said...

Anyplace you see the words "No Lone Zone" stenciled on the walls, you're playing by Big Boy Rules.

Roberta X said...

I was kind of wondering about that; I know a lot of the routine ops had been moved to an above-ground facility (because Cheyenne Mountain could be taken out by a big-enough H-bomb, or multiple small ones, and has the same kinds of air-quality and maintenance headaches as the other underground sites). But I thought they surely maintained some small "Continuity" presence there even now.

...I'm told smaller underground Bell facilities (Autovon and such) are largely out of service, sold off and/or filled in (rather than updated) for similar reasons.

Amusingly, NORAD's "two-line element sets" are the gold-standard source for tracking data for inclined-orbit commercial satellite services. The guy who puts 'em out there is a very kewl .mil Ph.D. with all manner of clearances -- and an even larger amount of common sense and friendliness. Y'don't have to go all cloak'n'dagger over things that actually require neither cloaks nor daggers.

Anonymous said...

Very cool. I loved the disclaimer on the webpage, parts of which said:

Emergency escape will require a long walk while under considerable duress.

Tour guests may be required to stay for longer than duration of the tour for up to multiple days due to "slam door and button up" emergency lock downs.

St Paul

DaddyBear said...

I've been a few places where escort security was only a couple of rungs down from "It puts the lotion on its skin". Those tend to be the jobs that I wish I could tell my kids about.

Dave H said...

"because Cheyenne Mountain could be taken out by a big-enough H-bomb, or multiple small ones"

Or a bunch of rocks, if you believe The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Decentralization works if you can maintain (or resume) communication between sites, and the internet has shown how durable a decentralized network can be when there are enough people with soldering irons and screwdrivers dedicated to keeping it running.

Anonymous said...

Nekoma North Dakota. I got a tour of the big pyramid in the background about 1979. They had a V-8 generator which had pistons about 5' in diameter.


DOuglas2 said...

"and if I had anything set up for DEFCON 0, I wouldn't say a thing about it, just let the real and hobbyist tinfoil hatters concentrate on the visible sites."

That worked really well for Casper until the journalist Ted Gup betrayed it. I guess a big pit and 50,000 tons of concrete is hard to keep secret.

Stretch said...

I walked into a room at [redacted] with a work order to attach RS-232 and RJ-11 connectors to cables previously installed. Common term for such activity is "terminate the cable."
Only the word "terminate" got out of my mouth when all 5 occupants of the room had their hands in the top right desk drawer. I've never soldered and crimped so fast in my life.

Anonymous said...


If you are ever in that situation again, whatever you do, do NOT set that thing down or let go of the button. I'm pretty sure the city of Jerusalem would not be amused if the Calvary was removed to your location.



Roberta X said...

Greenbriar/Greek Island was well outmoded (at least for nuke-war shelterage) by the time Ted Gup spilled the beans. I still think that was an inside job, done with official approval.

...Anyone who is in D.C. if the balloon goes up is, simply, done for. Congresscritters? Ash. Plus a great many useful citizens. Given that, once the Soviets caught up and kept on building new and bigger ICBMs, what did they even need the shelter for?

About Camp David said...

Interesting post - thanks for the link to my Site R[edacted] Tour parody site.

Ken said...

Given that, once the Soviets caught up and kept on building new and bigger ICBMs, what did they even need the shelter for?


Anonymous said...

you are full of it. i worked at site r. the only armed guards were the mps and the guards at the anmcc.there are no elavators in site r the only facility with an elavator was site c