Military Stories #15

Walking two miles into the cave seemed exciting, except it was also a two lane highway. It actually looked like a typical highway tunnel with a small sidewalk on the right. 
I started out a little deflated, it looked far less dramatic than I expected. Then suddenly it took a turn for the better. The road bent so it was darker, and the smooth walls disappeared, leaving raw rugged rock exposed. This was looking up. There might even be bats. I continued down the roadway until I saw a single lamp over what appeared to be a buzzer. There was only a small sign that said something like “Prepare to show ID”. So I pull out my card and pushed the button. 

I didn’t realize that I was standing just to the right of a large door. As it started to open I could see that it was at least eight feet high and maybe slightly wider. What was really amazing was the thickness of the door. Every time I expected to see the opening it swung a few more inches. 

Finally after almost two feet of steel I saw a hunched over MP pushing the door open manually. I presented myself at attention with my ID under my chin. He seemed bored and waved me in while he struggled to stop the outward motion of the door. Reversing direction he finally shut the door and spun the bank vault like wheel to lock us in. 

We were now in a forty foot long inner tunnel with exactly the same size doors at both ends. So we walked to the far end where the process repeated. It was obvious that they were blast doors, expected to be closed, and if they were opened, only one at a time was allowed.

The next area appeared to be a clothing disposal area and large public showers. Apparently to wash away radioactive dust. Continuing on there was a uniform distribution area, from underwater to boots. There must have been thousands of sets available. No need for a shower, no need for a uniform, so I simply walked forward into a two lane road that went to my left and to my right. Later I would find out that there were storage food lined up in the tunnel, and perhaps mining gear in order to dig us out should there be a collapse. Oh yeah, there was a lake on one end, with a rowboat on it. Everything was two miles below the surface of the mountain. 

The roadway also accessed what looked to be five buildings each four or five stories tall, and each set inside their own tunnels with some interconnections. My new home was somewhere in one of the buildings. Someone came down to escort me to the crypto repair unit, and I’m not sure, but there were at least four key pads with codes. Apparently I had to memorize a lot of codes just to go to work. 

I was told by the escorting technician that the codes were changed every time someone left for another assignment, which was at least every week. So the first thing to learn was how to crack the access pads. Way to many codes to memorize. 

I can’t quite explain the vastness of what the underground site was like. There were hundreds of personnel staffing the place 24/7, but there were miles of corridors of empty offices and empty barracks. It was after all the underground Pentagon, but only in an emergency. The real Pentagon was in DC and the largest building on earth. I don’t think everyone could fit here, and I know that the cabinet officers, and the Whitehouse staff also had suites. I spent a few weeks on detail, going from apartment to apartment making sure that the secure phone systems were working in all of the empty living quarters.

One sobering thought was that all the generals, all the cabinet members, the President and his family were all going to be safe in an emergency. But when the sirens went off, I would leave my family in our trailer, travel to the tunnel and hopefully make it in before the doors were sealed. It was an inside joke that if we were late and still in the tunnel, that the blast of a middle going off at the entrance would send a thousand mile an hour wave of energy that would cause us to fly like a spit was, down the tunnel turning towards the exit on the other side, where we would exit flying across the valley above the Gettysburg Battlefield. Of course by that time we would be mostly radioactive ash. It was suggested to get on the tunnel within fifteen minutes, as that was the warning from missiles coming over the Arctic Circle. 

There were periodic alerts that went off, testing our ability to get in the tunnel. Each time I knew it was a test, but each time I looked skyward to see if there were missile contrails. I’m safe, but my family is vaporized.

I tried to think of it as just another job. But it wasn’t, it was way too real, and several dramatic layers of bizarre.