Military Stories #14

It was snowing pretty steady when we drove up to the trailer late at night. I had rented it sight unseen but the photos showed that it was in the backyard of a local home. The most important thing was it came with a full oil tank for the furnace. As it turned out that was extremely necessary.
It was nice and toasty the next morning and I was planning to retrieve another suitcase from the trunk of the car. My problem was that I couldn’t open the front door. Looking out the window I could see that a snow drift had blocked the door. I also could see that I couldn’t see the car. The trailer was raised about four feet off the ground so with the three feet on the porch there appeared to be seven feet of snow drifting into this spot. I could see the car because it was completely buried.

In general there was about three feet of snow laying on the ground. We had not stopped for provisions on the way in, so I had to walk the three miles to a general store. I hoped that the main road had been plowed. 

I set off wearing my backpacking waterproof gaiters but that was useless, they only came up to my knees. The snow was often waist deep, powdery, and soft. 

It took nearly three hours to get to the store, and then another fours hours to get back to the trailer carrying only two bags of essentials, with lots of rest along the way. 

I had five days before I had to report to my new post. The snow plows came on the fourth day. My papers didn’t say much about the new post, something about StratCom and then Ft. Ritchie, MD. I was living in Pennsylvania, but the roads twisted north and south several times within a couple miles. Waynesboro was the largest town nearby, and it was one of the towns in Pennsylvania that General Lee had invaded on the way to Gettysburg

I reported to the small post at Ft. Ritchie expecting that it was the upper level to a secret shaft or old coal mine, it was a variety of older stone buildings surrounded by two golf course. I had heard that Ft Ritchie had twice as many officers as enlisted men so I was expecting to salute a lot. Apparently the officers didn’t have to wait long for tee times. 

Headquarters informed me right away to not look for secret entrances, the actual worksite was miles away. For the first week all I had to do was work KP in the Mess Hall while I waited for my clearances to come through, then I would be allowed to ride the bus to the site. The week went pretty fast as the entire Mess Hall was pretty automated. Most of my job consisted of filling the milk machine. They drank a lot of milk. 

About a week went by and I was ordered to the front desk where I received my pass and orders to report to crypto. Unfortunately the early morning bus had just left so I was given the option of driving or waiting for noon. I wanted to report as soon as possible so I waited for driving instructions or maybe a map. 

I should have realized that they didn’t have a map to the most top secret underground facility in the Western world. In the week that I was there I learned that Ft. Ritchie hosted Site R, or Raven Rock, generally considered the underground Pentagon. It was capable to withstand dozens of direct hits, allowing WWIII to be safely directed and controlled deep with the hard rock mountain in Pennsylvania

It was somewhere down the road towards Gettysburg and not far from Camp David, the presidential retreat. Suddenly I realized that every time I heard that the President was going to Camp David I should be considering if he was planning to duck into his hides hole. What else was going on in the world?

The first sergeant didn’t give me a map, he directed me to the highway to Gettysburg and told me to watch my speedometer, and when mile sixteen flipped I should then look for a small green sign, three inches by three inches, placed on the telephone pole, near the upper crosstree. That sounded pretty weird but I said nothing. I was supposed to turn right on the next legal roadway until I saw a sign for a dairy farm. I was to turn left at that sign and proceed until stopped by MPs. There was no dairy farm.

The MPs would check my identification and they told me not to stop and to roll up my windows as guard dogs were patrolling. I guess I looked nervous because the next set of MPs asked if I was told about ravenous guard dogs. I said that I was warned and one of the MPs pointed to a small graveyard with little tombstones. He said the last guard dogs died in the sixties. The other MP pointed to the parking lot and where the bus would take me into the mountain. Or I could choose to walk.