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The construction of buildings and installation of equipment was complete toward the end of September 67.  Lt/Col Farnsworth went to Clark AB, PI to brief the 13th AF Commander, B/G Benjamin O. Davis, on the status of the site. After attending several meetings with personnel from 7/13, 7th AF and various fighter wings he reported for duty at OL-24, Hue Phu Bai, South Vietnam. Most of the rest of the installation team had left the mountain. The few that remained were to insure it was operational before the day to day operation teams arrived.  Col Gerald Clayton was currently hand selecting his teams from 1st CEG resources.  The teams had to be briefed, discharged from the USAF and hired by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in accordance with a pre-arranged agreement between the US Government and Lockheed AC.  The Teams would have Lockheed identification as a cover story and all records would indicate they were employees. Upon completion of the assignment they would be reinstated as USAF personnel with no loss of time or benefits.  It was additionally agreed that if an individual were lost at Lima Site 85 they would be reinstated into the USAF with all benefits for their families.  During this briefing and paper work intensive period, Site 85 would be brought up to operational status so they could just step in and start doing the job they were trained for.  Lt/Col Alan Randle was in charge of this operational testing period.  However, a few more personnel were needed to fill critical positions.  Col Harry Urban, Commander of 1st Mobile Communications Group (AACS) at Clark AB and his Chief of Maintenance, Major Samuel Leibovitz, selected the following personnel, from 1st MOB resources, to fill the needed slots.

TSgt Ronald H. Haden, 30670
TSgt Roger H. Smith, 30670
SSgt Marion R. Carter, 36370
SSgt Ellis T. Charlton, 36370

A 30670 was a Electronic Communications and Cryptographic Equipment Systems Technician and 36370 was a Communications and Relay Center Equipment Technician. The four 1st MOB technicians were sent TDY (Temporary Duty) to the 1973rd Communications Squadron at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand.  During the TDY period they were in "Sanitized" condition, which means; civilian clothes, no Military ID and no weapons. The traditional "Black Hats" of the 1st Mobile were also a no-no (More on the "Black Hats" later). An additional instruction was "no cameras". After the signing in procedures they were taken to the Air America Complex and issued Air America ID cards, then off base to find lodging. They were not allowed to live on base and mingle with uniformed personnel. The next day they were transported to Lima Site 85 via the 20th SOS "Pony Express".  After taking a few days to check out and finalize the installation of their respective equipments, the operational testing phase commenced.  They broke up into two teams for weekly rotation.   The fly-in testing was successfully completed, with very few problems. Col Clayton and his teams arrived the first week in November 1967. The remaining members of the installation crew and 1st Mobile personnel returned to their home bases or next assignment.

More on the 1st MOB

The 1st Mobile Communications Group (AACS) was charged with the overt and covert installation of much of the communications equipment required in Southeast Asia.  This group was commonly called the 1st MOB or sometimes "Black Hats".  The Black Hat was a baseball cap emblazoned with "FIRST MOBILE".  Their motto was "First In Last Out", of course this wasn't always the case.  The 1st Mobile was manned from the general Air Force pool of communications personnel. Being assigned to the 1st MOB from your plush stateside assignment or technical school was a shock for most of the younger Airmen, but they soon became swallowed up in the camaraderie and high moral of this organization.  The 1st MOB had extensive facilities at Clark AB in the Philippine islands.  The equipment storage, maintenance and training facilities were second to none.  New personnel went through rigorous training and practice deployments within the confines of Clark AB. Only when they were certified "deployable" by their supervisor were they sent out into the field for the real thing.  Many of these deployments were often difficult and dangerous locations under austere conditions.

Major General Paul R. Stoney, former Commander of the Air Force Communications Command, in a 1986 oral history interview, recounted an example of how leaders in theater regarded the 1st Mobile Communications Group: "I remember General Westmoreland coming back from a trip from Vietnam for a hearing before congress or something and decided to stop by Scott AFB.  General Estes was running MAC then.  I went down on the ramp to meet General Klocko who was coming in from someplace else and here was General Westmoreland.  Of course, here I was gaping at General Westmoreland and I heard him say to General Estes, 'There's one person I want to meet on this base - the guy who's responsible for those  black-hatters.'  Because he says, 'you see them all over Vietnam.'  So I stood up and said, 'Well, I'm your guy.'  So he was just all over himself about the responsiveness of the mobile people to the needs of various commanders in Southeast Asia.  And I think by hook or crook and sweat and ingenuity on the part of our people many times, rather than by any really equipping them to meet the thing. They met the contingencies they had to face by ingenuity and hard work and by hook or by crook we did it."
{Source: Major General Paul R. Stoney, Air Force Communications Command Oral History Interview, 1 July 1986}

Many a time you would hear a black hatter proudly say
"This is my second (or third) tour with the 1st MOB."

CMSgt Samuel E. Morrow Jr., USAF (ret), NCOIC, 1ST Mobile Communications Group Command Post and Nav-Aids Site Survey Specialist, 1965-68, 1969-72 Comments:  "The 1st Mobile Communications Group was part of a concept that grew out of the Korean war.  It was realized that there was a need  to provide a Group that had the capabilities to provide everything that a Command might need when going into a bare base environment.  So the Mobile Communications Groups were formed.   These Groups consisted of personnel and equipments necessary to provide a Bare Base Commander with the necessary personnel and equipments  vital to the operation of an Air Force Base.  They ranged from Crypto, Teletype Communications, Radio Operations, Micro Wave Relay, Navigational Aids, Air Traffic Control, Instrument Approach Specialists, Ground Power Personnel,  etc.  Each Group was equipped with the standard equipments , but in mobile form.   
     The 1st Mobile Communications Group’s area of responsibility extended from Japan, to Korea, to Taiwan, to all of SEA., to India, to Australia, and into the Indian Ocean area.  To provide manning to meet these mission requirements the unit was manned with 1,200 various personnel.  On any given day the unit had more than 230 to 250 personnel deployed, some as complete teams, others as individuals. 
     In South Vietnam the unit performed site surveys and deployed personnel and equipment to every base from the Delta, to the Highlands, to Khe Sanh.  They had personnel deployed to Khe Sanh supporting the siege of 1968, and returned 250 strong in 1971 in support of Lam Son 719.
 
     Every book every written where reference is made to an Air Force Team  performing site surveys in Laos and Cambodia was performed by the personnel from the 1st Mobile Communications Group.  We arrived in SEA in the very early 60s and stayed until the very end.  During this period they surveyed and installed the equipments at every Air Base in Thailand , and most of South Vietnam.  1st Mobile Personnel suffered rocket attacks, sniper attacks, mortar attacks, and had many site overran.  Yet by the end of hostilities we had placed only 2 names on the Vietnam Memorial.  This in itself is truly remarkable.  
     The U-2 Black Birds that were used in the theater had to rely upon VOR equipments for navigation, which were few and far between.  Although a team of Engineers from the FAA performed a study and declared that VOR equipments could never work in that environment, they deployed and installed 9, from Korea, to Taiwan, to South Vietnam, and Thailand.  And it is noted that all passed the FAA Flight Inspections with flying colors.   
     When the U.S. Army Radar could not be brought on line in support of Lam Son 719 at Khe Sanh the 7th Air Force Commander turned to the 1st Mobile for assistance to prevent cancellation of the project.  We immediately obtained waivers of the regulations for loading C-130 aircraft and modified our heavy air traffic control radar so that it could be loaded and transported, then off loaded and installed at Khe Sanh.  The Company that made the equipment said it couldn’t be done, the engineers said it wouldn’t work due to air strip limitations.  We threw the book away, transported and installed the equipment and proved it by passing the FAA flight inspection on the first flight.  This radar was instrumental in saving more than 12 helicopter loads of wounded due to bad weather preventing lift off with out radar assistance.  It was instrumental in saving 2 C-130 aircraft loaded with 82nd troops when they locked on to a false signal and were crossing the DMZ.  
     When there was a dire need for Nav-Aids  in Laos the 1st Mobile Communications Group immediately deployed the teams to perform the surveys, and install the equipments.   Our involvement began in 1966 with the installation of the TACAN at LS 85, and continued through 1973.  There were very few places that were suitable for TACAN installations in Laos and Cambodia that was not surveyed by 1st Mobile personnel at one time or another.  From the Northern border to the PDJ, to Mt Pho Bia, to the Bolovens Plateau, to every field in Cambodia a 1st Mobile footprint was left behind.   Our personnel were shot at and threatened in Laos, and a team was shot down over NW Cambodia.  Yet they still lined up to go back.   After the Lima Site 85 deployment, in September 1967 of four Technicians to support the testing of the TSQ-81, no further In Country ID's were issued for Laos operations.  Our personnel were “sanitized” at Udorn RTAFB and traveled from then on with out identification of any kind.  After witnessing the results of the NVA raids on Channel 72, and the shoot down of a CAS C-47 we were convinced that they were not interested in taking us prisoner.  For in both instances the personnel were riddled with automatic weapons fire, the TACAN  personnel in their beds, and the CAS pilots in their seats.   
     It was also during this period that the 1st Mobile was called upon by NASA to fill a void in their capabilities to track Russian satellites. We immediately drew up a design using on hand equipment, removed equipments from several different vans, re-tuned the receivers to the proper frequencies, then designed and built the necessary antennas, and deployed three to fill the void.  One to Australia, one to Diego Garcia, and one to a mountain NW of  Chiang Mai Thailand.  
     Due to our efforts of making do with what ever was on hand at the moment the unit received high praise from many In Country Commanders but were severely criticized by the Procurement Personnel in Washington, for they sincerely believed we were trying to destroy their procurement programs by modifying our equipments.  
     I know of no other Communications unit that was in country during that period who received more decorations than the personnel of the 1st Mobile Communications Group. 
    
The unit received 1 Presidential Unit citation for their involvement in the SEA conflict.  Now stationed in Germany the unit continues to carry out their mission.  They have participated in the operations in Bosnia, Desert Storm, and are now involved in Afghanistan.  Just different faces performing the same difficult job." 
{Source: CMSgt Samuel E. Morrow Jr. e-mail to Ron Haden 08-26-2002}

 
The 1st Mobile Communications Group has existed, in one name or another, since 1952, and has made its home in the heat of the Philippines, exotic Japan, and in strategically located central Europe. The unit has earned no less than 27 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, 3 of them with Valor devices. In fact, the unit has received one every year since 1963, except 1 time, 1968 -- when it was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The squadron has also garnered the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm device, and the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation. 

For more on the history of this unique organization from 1952 to present see  http://1stmob.com/ This site is also a central location where ex-1st MOB'ers can contact each other.

 

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