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Life at Loring

The following are a collection of memories and stories from Mike  (Wedge, Michael (1979-1982)) about his time at Loring Air Force Base, Maine.  You can contact him at m.wedge@sbcglobal.net.



Life at Loring AFB, Part 1

 

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and, like some of my generation, decided that the military was an option.  My father was career Air Force; He had two tours in Viet Nam and a slew of other assignments around Asia. 

So, with some limited understanding of Air Force life, I enlisted on the 26th of September, 1978.

 

After completion of boot camp, I went to tech school at Lowry AFB, Colorado.  This is where all 463’s went. And 461’s and 462’s, I think. The Nuclear Weapons Technical School lasted about 6 months or so.  My assignment sheet came out during this time.  Loring AFB.  Like most, I did not know that the place even existed.  And, since my dream sheet was mainly the southwest and west coast, I guess the powers to be figured it was in the same hemisphere. 

 

I bought a car in Denver.  A 75 Ford Pinto.  What fun to drive that little junk across the US!  It took me 5 ½ days to get to Loring.   I think I arrived at Loring around March 22, 1979.   My sponsor was a SSgt. Pearcey.  He also happened to be my supervisor.  Anyway, I finally settled into my barracks room.  We called it a dorm.  Back then, many people had private rooms.  This was due to lower manning at Loring; perhaps because the base was slated to close, even back then.   

The room was nice.  As some remember, the MMS dorm had two rooms that shared a bathroom. A day room was between two hallways of rooms.

 

The day after I arrived was a Friday.  Dorm life, as I found out, was one big party.   On that Friday, a keg party started in the day room.  As I remember, a person named, Donnie, brought out his stereo, complete with Bose 901’s and cranked up the music real loud.  Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, J Geils, and a slew of other rock music blared out. Drinking continued all night long!  And the parties continued for my entire time at Loring!  I guess I was home. 

 

The following Monday was basically filled with in-processing and the CBPO stuff.  At some point, I went to the MMS Squadron headquarters.  And met the commander, Major Mason and First Sergeant, SMSgt Floyd Forseman.  What a pair!  Some may remember them.    And, eventually went out to the WSA at   East Loring.   I was assigned to the Plant.   The Plant was the bomb shop inside the WSA.  It was the first building one comes to after the Entry Control Point.  This building was earth covered, had large blast doors on both ends.  And, had wooden structures on both ends.  These wooden structures were called parachute bays.  A name probably given from the old days.   The Plant had an office area, a break room and a bathroom.  And, of course, a large maintenance bay. 

I started OJT almost immediately.  The weapon systems were of the gravity bomb variety.  What used to be called, “Special Weapons”.  Some of these systems were older than me!

Being a B52 base, the launch equipment was a clip-in assembly with 4 weapons per clip-in.  I progressed along in OJT and the book studies.  To say the least, it was interesting work.

Life at Loring AFB, Part 2:

 

The WSA.  

The ECP or Entry Control Point was a small building with fences and the place one exchanged badges for entry.  It also housed the keys for both the Plant and IMF.

As I remember, there were about 24 active igloos for storage.   The IMF was up the hill.  It was for missile maintenance.  There were some abandoned buildings.  One was between the Plant and the IMF.  This building was basically underground and consisted of several vault compartments with cubicle shelves.  The old timers said that this was the storage area for what was called, the “Birdcages”   Essentially, the pits of old atomic devices.

At the center of the WSA was a large tall building with two gun emplacements outside.  It may have been called, “The Bank” The vault door to this building was welded shut.   Rumor has it, that this building actually went down several stories underground and was welded shut due to an accident many years prior.  Perhaps a legend.

There were a few smaller buildings.  Most were abandoned.  One in particular was on the side of the Plant.  It was configured like a large painting booth with a waterfall at the end.

The rest of the structures were underground igloos or magazines for storage of weapons.

 

East Loring.

Most of East Loring dated way back.   Perhaps to the late 40’s or early 50’s.  Most of us did investigate the old buildings outside the WSA.  Some of the buildings appeared to be old laboratories.   Some were just foundations.  Some buildings had cellars and a tunnel system that appeared to go from building to building.   Although, most of the tunnels were flooded and not accessible.  The conventional weapons shop was just outside the WSA at the backside of the parking lot.  Speaking of tunnels, the Plant appeared to have a blocked tunnel entrance in a back room and rumor has it that the tunnel may have once gone to the conventional weapons building outside the WSA or perhaps, somewhere else.

There was a fire station at the end of East Loring still being used.  Another building for vehicle storage, Bldg. 109.  (In my opinion, Bldg. 109 was haunted.  Yet, another story.)  And, gas pumps for the vehicles.   Some of the other magazine areas outside of the WSA were used by the conventional weapons shop.   And of course, the supposed UFO incident occurred at one of those storage areas. 

I did not understand East Loring, Caribou AFS or the North River Depot until many years after leaving the service.  But, it all kind of makes sense, after reading some of the stories about the history of the place and remembering the buildings of East Loring.

Considering that while I was there, 1979-1982, most of the old buildings in East Loring had long been abandoned.   East Loring did appear to be a lab and research environment; along with being an active special weapons wing in the old days.  I would gather, the first operational special weapons base in the continental US.

 

 

 Life at Loring Part 3:

 

The NCO Club and other adventures in drinking.

 Loring had a pretty good NCO Club.  It had a large dance hall with stage in the front, a restaurant, a video game room and a back bar with a small dance floor.  Also, in the basement, a place called the Pizza Cellar was built for casual dining.

 Usually there was live entertainment in dance hall.  One of the better bands to play the club was Cactus.  Cactus usually played covers of the Eagles, Marshall Tucker, ZZ Top and other southern type rock.  Great band!

Also, a one-man electronic band complete with a robot sometimes played.  And, occasional disco or dance bands would play.

The restaurant in the club was average but, usually good food.  The back bar normally played dance music. 

The game room had the popular video games of the time.  Pac Man, Tempest, Centipede and the like. 

Drinks and beer were cheap at the club.  50 cents for a draft, 75 cents for a bottle of beer.  $1.00 for a mixed drink. 

Since the winters were harsh, the NCO Club was a very popular hangout.  And, anytime there was a band, the place was usually packed.

Sometimes, at the NCO club, it was possible to pick up a lady for an evening of fun.  And, perhaps some “afterhours” back at the dorm room.  This type of activity was common.  And, as one first shirt used to say, “It gets really cold in Maine and, sometimes a little warmth at night is helpful”.  Besides, the MMS dorm was coed anyway.

The New Years Eve parties at the club were also a highlight.  Always a live band and good food. 

One  memory of the club was when some of the Thunderbird team showed up and were in the back bar having a few drinks. I think it was in 1981.  They were a great group!  A good time to socialize with some great pilots.  Unfortunately, in early 1982, four pilots crashed during practice.  It is quite possible that some of these guys were part of that tragic event.  So very sad!

 Obviously, the off base establishments were also entertaining.  The Rendezvous out the east gate for beer and pizza. 

Grand Falls had a night club.  (forgot the name).  Although, a few cases of Alpine were “liberated” from an unlocked back door of the place.

There were a couple of “party houses” in the Limestone area.  No comment on those!

 In the early 80’s, there were some big overnight parties off base.  Usually in the summertime and more or less, camping adventures with kegs of beer on some farmers land. 

 We were fortunate to have a few well known bands to play in Presque Isle at the Northern Maine Forum.  Blue Oyster Cult, America and even Alice Cooper.  When one is in Aroostook County, any popular band is great.

OSI put out the word that they would be “watching” the Forum for any possible illegal activity during the concerts.  Of course, back then, they were looking for drugs and drug users.  Both of which were common during rock concerts of the 70’s and 80’s.  

So, the key was to slam down some drinks prior to entering the concert.  A little buzz for the show.

The America concert was good.  They played all of their hits.

The Alice Cooper concert was great.  He really got the crowd going.

Some of the more religious people of the local community did not care for the concerts.  And, actually tried to stop one of the concerts by spreading fear in the community after the incident that occurred in Cincinnati with the Who concert in 1979.  It may well have been folks who were against rock music.  They lost the battle and the concerts went on.

The concerts were great for morale.

 During this time frame of late 70’s to early 80’s, the culture was one of partying.  And, most of us in the dorm were in the ages of 18 to 24 years old.  So, a comparison would be like the old movie, Dazed and Confused.  Being young and single at Loring was like a sequel to that movie; but more intense.  With many subplots and scenes. 

Ah, to be young!

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