May 19, 1999
The Rapid City Journal grants permission for use of 1958-59 news stories on Nike sites on private web pages.
Peggy Sagen, Editor
Journal Staff Writer
Fellow officers, wives and children were on hand about 8 p.m. when the last C-46 touched ground at EAFB and rolled to the operations building.
A loud cheer went up as Rounds, commander of the Second Missile Battalion, Nike-Ajax, 67th Artillery at EAFB stepped from the plane. The banner welcoming the "killers" formed a backdrop for the gay occasion.
As Rounds stepped to the airfield apron, a "killer" crown was placed on his head and he was led to a "throne" made from an office chair and several rods.
The hoopla was a part of the jubilant response to the second missile battalion's amazing record of 12 targets knocked from the sky over Red Canyon grounds in 12 Nike shots – a perfect batting score.
Two batteries of the second battalion started their annual service practice two weeks ago and the remaining two finished last week. Nike guided missiles are fired only at the Red Canyon grounds in annual practices for battalions from throughout the world. No Nike missiles are fired at operational installations where they are placed to protect critical defense points.
No other Nike-Ajax installation in the United States has ever recorded a perfect firing record and the Rapid Citians' score has been equalled only by an American installation in Germany that fired at Red Canyon range the week before.
"Nine for nine in '59" is the battle cry of the second battalion. Translated to layman's language this means that the outfit is shooting for a perfect score when it returns to the Red Canyon range on May 1, 1959 for its second practice firing.
Three of the four second missile battalion batteries will go to Red Canyon in May – the fourth will be a Fort Bliss, Tex., training for Nike Hercules conversion. The Hercules missile is about four times as powerful as the Ajax and has nuclear capabilities.
The three batteries going to Red Canyon next spring will fire nine missiles and try for a perfect score in procedures of
firing (9,000) – hence the "nine for nine" slogan.
A perfect score in 1959 is about the only superior achievement crews next May can make over this year's record. Wasting no time, second battalion crews began training today for the May firing.
The final score for four Rapid City batteries this year was 10,217 out of a possible 12,000 points. This gives them a numerical standing of sixth in the nation from the standpoint of scoring.
Missile assembly: Possible total 1,200 points, Rapid City received 1,070.
Pre-firing procedures: Possible total 3,000, Rapid City received 1,839.
Salvo firing of two missiles about a minute and a half apart: Possible score, 4,940. Rapid City received 4,809 points.
Firing of a single missile from a Nike-Ajax electronic system that has been completely shut down for at least two hours: Possible score 2,680, Rapid City's score was 2,682.
Working under adverse weather conditions and with equipment that has been overused by all 210 batteries in the United States, the Rapid City missile firing crews did a superior job and were commended for their good training and routines by Maj. John W. Bryan, operations officer of the Red Canyon Range. During a critique, following firing, Bryan could only find minor points to emphasize for further training.
The point system of scoring doesn't necessarily represent efficiency – rather strict adherence to "the bible" which is a lengthy and complicated pile of documents containing firing procedures recommended by the U.S. Army Defense Command.
Evaluators are constantly on hand at each of the three separate electronic installations required to fire each Nike-Ajax battery. One command that isn't worded according to the book, or one wrong move and points are decucted.
In one case when a wrong move was made, a Rapid City battery was docked 10 points. At that precise moment, the evaluator ruled that the missile was non-operational and the 10 points were padded to 50. Under rules of the scoring system 50 points were doubled so the Rapid City battery lost 100 points for making a 10-point mistake.
In another case, the Rapid City batteries
were fined 40 points
for a change in procedure that they hadn't even received from headquarters.
Officers and men of the second battalion were unanimous in their opinions that actual operational conditions are much easier than practice firing.
For one thing, there are no evaluators watching all moves and the atmosphere is less tense. Moreover, "sets" (the electronics equipment necessary to fire a Nike) are kept in tip top shape at operational units. Breakdowns, especially the inability to keep generators from breaking down, formed one of the major problems for the Rapid City batteries last week. Other equipment failures were common.
Living under substandard conditions and working day and night, often without meals until they were done, Rapid City Army men were subject to strain not normally found at orderly operational units. Each time equipment broke down, a complicated series of checks that consume about two hours had to be resumed at the beginning.
Another problem was a "letdown feeling" resulting from inability of the radio-controlled drone targets to stay in the air. Several times the batteries were ready to fire, only to have the drones fall to the ground. Very high winds and icing took a heavy toll of the small targets. On Wednesday night and early Thursday morning when about nine missiles were fired at the range, crews launched 47 of the drone targets.
Rounds said under Army ruling, the most experienced Rapid City crews could not attend the annual service practice. The Army rules for training purposes, that only persons with more than 6 months remaining are allowed to attend the annual service practice.
The Nike firing system is an amazingly complicated mass of tubes, wires and radar. One officer at the firing range compares it to 40 large home television sets hooked in a sequence. "How long would this combination opearate perfectly?" he asked.
About 160 men from the Rapid City battalion attended the two week firing, 80 each week. They arrived at Red Canyon on Sunday, checked equipment Monday and conducted pre-firing procedures Tuesday. Firing commenced Tuesday afternoon and lasted through early Thursday morning.