DIEGO GARCIA AIR FORCE BASE IN ACTION!
SAAM 2101 "EARNEST WILL"
JULY - AUGUST, 1987
MAC MISSION DIRECTIVE - HQMAC/DOOMS 301146ZJUL87
For those of you who've never seen one, this page will link you to the Headquarters Military Airlift Command Current Operations Mission Scheduling (HQMAC/DOOMS) message directing the mission and support for this Special Assignment Airlift Mission (SAAM). That message is short and basically directs some other operational headquarters to "make it happen." In this case, that was 22nd Air Force, based out of Travis AFB, California. 22AF controlled all the airlift from the Mississippi River westward to the East Coast of Africa. Since most of this mission would take place in 22nd territory, they got the assignment.
For those of you unfamiliar with reading an "old style" message, the following gazetteer may help:
1. At the top and bottom of the page is the security classification. These messages are UNCLASSIFIED. Other classifications included CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET.
2. The next couple lines are the "computers" address codes for transmittal, etc. For example, "RUVNSAA" was the Navy Communications Center on DGar. Remember, the system in use had been around for decades. It would be unfair to compare it to todays computerized communications. But it worked pretty well.
3. The precedence of the message is next. This one was IMMEDIATE. Other precedences included ROUTINE, PRIORITY, and FLASH. ALL aircraft movement messages were IMMEDIATE precedence.
4. The "Date/Time" group of the message is next (301146ZJUL87). This means the message sender gave it this transmission time. It had to go out plus or minus 5 minutes of the date/time group. Senders with numerous transmissions often put odd minutes in their date/time groups to differentiate between messages. For example, MAC/DOOMS was a very busy office, and certainly sent out lots of messages, but in theory, no more than one a minute. This message was sent out within 5 minutes of 11:46 a.m., Zulu Time (i.e., Greenwich Mean Time - now called Coordinated Universal Time) on the 30th of July, 1987.
5. The "To AIG 8331" meant the message went to every addressee on the "Address Indicator Group, number 8331." Unless you had the secret decoder ring, you'd never know who 8331 was. Also, only authorized senders could use the AIG. If I had to guess, based on the nature of the message and who's not in the additional list of addressees that follow the AIG listing, I would say this message went to MAC/DOOMS subordinate operations and planning centers, the "Current Operations" offices at the various Wings, Airlift Divisions, and "Numbered Air Forces". The address listing that follows the AIG includes everybody who MAC/DOOMS believed had a need to know about the mission. You'll note my little detachment was listed last as "RUVNSAA/OL A 374TAW DIEGO GARCIA." This was pretty much of an insult, as the OL ("operating location") had been upgraded to a DET ("detachment") at least 3 years earlier. However, its instructive as it shows how seldom HQ MAC bothered to send a message to us out there at the end of the line.
6. After another classification reminder, there's the subject: SUBJ: AUGUST SAAM 2101. A SAAM was a "Special Assignment Airlift Mission," distinct from training sorties, or "channel missions" (regularly scheduled missions). A SAAM could be an exercise, or, like this one, a real world contingency mission, called "operational missions". The "Close Watch" meant it was briefed daily to every general officer in Military Airlift Command, and if the airflow got screwed up, some colonel's head would roll, so all the peasants better pay attention to what they were doing!
7. Then comes the laundry list:
A. Operating Air
Force: 22nd Air Force based at Travis AFB, California. 22nd
was responsible for all airlift from the Mississippi River westbound to
the east coast of Africa.
B. SAAM numbers: 2101, and missions 1 through 12. Each mission was a single aircraft going to the onload location, picking up the load, and flying it all the way to its final destination (i.e., DGAR).
(1) Priority: 1B(1). The only higher priorities were 1A(1-4). Those were carrying the President, VP, Supreme Court, etc., and Nuclear Weapons transport.
(2) Itinerary self explanatory.
(3) Type aircraft self explanatory.
Item 2. This meant that the first load would be ready for upload beginning at 10:00 p.m., EDT, July 29 (before thi message was actually sent). The first load would be ready to leave Norfolk Naval Air Station at 2:00 a.m., EDT, Aug. 1, 1987. They wanted them sent to the final destination ASAP (as soon as possible). The business about a "coordinated closure date" means when the Navy and MAC Current Operations figured out when the last mission would arrive at Diego Garcia.
Item 3 A and B. This is where the actual load was not described, as it was, at that time, still "classified."
Item 4 was the officer in charge of moving the classified cargo and people from Norfolk to DGAR.
Item 5.A. All missions had "lead times". So, a priority 4D(4), giving ROTC cadets an orientation flight, required, say 45 days advanced notice. 1As could be laid on immediately - diverting aircraft in flight from other missions, that sort of immediately. Priority 1Bs required, I believe, 48 hours notice. This mission directive was cut after the first mission needed to start moving, and the justification was the it was "JCS Directed" that is, it was directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on direct orders of the President.
Item 5.B. Wing DOO means the wing current operations shop - they group who assigned the missions to the flying, aerial port, and maintenance squadrons for completion. The reference paragraph for reporting meant that the crews had to notify MAC of their departures and arrivals, even though command posts normally did that for them.
Finally, Item 5.C. further puts the monkey on the back of the wings, squadrons, and crews. This was fairly typical early in a "push" mission flow like this when there wasn't any detailed plan, just "go get this stuff and take it to that place over there."
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This, and everything else I write and every photo I produce is copyrighted by Ted A. Morris, Jr.