This site is dedicated to ALL those who served in usafss, the united states air force SECURITY service, on the nsa comint intelligence team, during the cold-war years

The headset is probably the most representative icon of our work--after all, we did a lot of listening. The photo on left was provided by Al Lorentzen (USAFSS 1956-1962). He wore this set while stationed on Shemya Island and later in Scotland. One can only estimate what intelligence came through this one set but, believe me, it was substantial. Then multiply that by the thousands that were in use 24 hours a day around the globe and you may get an idea as to the magnitude of the USAFSS MIssion.    

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Special signals intercept operator/analyst Mike S. Beuster earned his sea legs on the USNS Gen. H.H. Arnold during the terminal months of his Air Force enlistment. In the spring of 1974 he was assigned to OLEB, 6948th Security Squadron (Mobile), Fort Meade, Maryland, biding his time as a Telemetry Signals Analyst in NSA/W17 after a remote assignment with the AAFJOG, Shemya, Alaska, April 1973 to April 1974.

TDY Orders-Going to Sea

I came to work one day and noticed a silhouette of a ship next to my name on the work status board. I said, “WHAT’S THIS?!” They said “You’re going on Project Pony Express; here’s your orders” I said, “But I’m supposed to get out in January.” They said, “Don’t worry, you can get off in Japan before the second part of the trip.” The orders were for 90 days, and later they were amended/extended to 170+ days, which was past my January 1975 separation date. (Could they do that? Yes!)

Assignment to Project Pony Express put me aboard the USNS Arnold, August through December 1974. I was part of a USAFSS special team on board the USNS Gen. H.H. Arnold that performed Soviet ICBM telemetry collection.USS Arnold Others aboard the Arnold on the Pony Express (See photo of USNS Arnold on right.) cruise included Air Force Security Service and Naval Security Group linguists and civilian technicians from ESL, Inc., GTE/Sylvania and RCA. In late August-early September, we left Oakland, California , for Adak, Alaska- a rough three day trip in a former WWII troop-carrier ship now carrying top heavy 60-foot L-Band/UHF multi-megawatt tracking radar that was right next to our 45-foot telemetry dish and another 30-foot C-Band radar dish at the other end. The ship also carried several optical trackers run by RCA. After almost three solid days of me being seasick, we made it to Adak. We refueled/resupplied at Adak, then headed out past Shemya for Kamchatka Peninsula , Siberia.Shemya (See photo on right.)Twenty miles off the coast, we started our Mission--going around and around in a race track pattern. A KGB tug and a gunboat came out—they didn’t look too pleased that we were there. We waved; they didn’t wave back. That’s ok, if they wanted trouble we had our Geneva Convention Cards with us, no uniforms though (Remember the Pueblo and the Liberty?) We spent quite a bit of time on station, then had to leave due to bad weather: 40-foot seas, 50-mph winds. The spiral helix broke loose; I helped the ESL tech tie it down above the balloon deck during an ice storm. Went back to Adak to drop off a sick civilian seaman.

Soviet ICBM Activities

October 1974 - Instead of heading back to Siberia, we were sent to the Broad Ocean Area (BOA) between Midway and Hawaii to support expected upcoming Soviet Long-range ICBM activities. We were there long enough to be refueled/re supplied by the USS Sacramento on her way to Japan.Refueling by USS Sacramento (See photo of refueling ops on right.) During the BOA, we watched the Soviets on their tracking ships in the area. They had a swimming pool and volley ball. I had my beach chair and swim suit and used the balloon deck to catch some rays. A P-3 Orion aircraft was usually flying around and once dropped some sonobuoys around the Arnold as a sub was believed to be under us. November 1974 – We finally left the BOA and headed to Yokouska, Japan, for resupply. A day before we were to arrive, we received a message saying that most of us were extended for the duration of the second trip. They pulled the plug on the comm center right after that. Sorry, TDY Extended. The regrettable news arrived in an ops-comm message. Regret that all OLEB personnel cannot be replaced. Severe budgetary restrictions and lack of qualified replacements are the reasons. Individuals remaining for the entire trip should not participate in first trip next year. All leave requests are approved. Amendments will be prepared and be available upon your return.

Replenishing Stop at Yokosuka

Down to the Wire,  December, 1974:   Pulled into Yokosuka for repairs (added another spiral helix on the starboard side). Resupplied with steak and lobster - GTE Sylvania rep had complained to the Fort (NSA) about the food on the first part of the trip. Headed back north but was diverted again to the BOA for more activity. Had to go to Pearl Harbor for re-supply. A bunch of NAVSECGRU CT’s were waiting to volunteer to go out as they were using WWII destroyer escorts for their platforms. I was able to convince the Government Rep/Pacific that they had enough R205X0’s [Special Signals Operators] on board and that I needed to get back to Ft. Meade for my separation.

 (For more USAFSS Navy stories see: Larry Tart's - Freedom Through Vigilance - FTV, Volume IV, USAFSS Airborne Recon Chapter 14 - History of USAFSS "Navy" (USAFSS support aboard USNS Arnold, Vandenberg, Observation Island and Invincible, plus "Pony Express" support). He can be contacted at:


We did come close 'combat' when Nixon raised the DEFCON because the Russians were threatening Israel during 1973 Arab–Israeli War, October 6 to 25, 1973, to DEFCON 3, ROUND HOUSE. Increase in force readiness above that required the Air Force to be ready to mobilize in 15 minutes. They woke us from a sound sleep to tell us of the DEFCON increase and that they Army (ASA) were getting M-16's and told to guard the beach (From what?). They told us to go back to bed, and stay away from the windows. The emergency evacuation plan for Shemya in case of Russian attack - Bend Over and Kiss Your A-- GOODBY! I guess the Russians were expected to fly over and let us starve to death. (Unbeknownst to them, there was a warehouse full of Schlitz Beer in Steel Cans.)

NOTE:  At the Administrator's request, Mike submitted his BIO:

I spent four years in the USAFSS 1971-1975 (E-4 - Hon. Discharge).
1971-1972 - Electronics Emission Monitor/Analyst / Electronic Intelligence R294X0 / 205X0 school at Keesler AFB.

1972-1973 - 6970th Support Group - Ft. Meade/NSA Main Ops - W1613 DEFSMAQ - Watch Operations - Special Research Technician.

1973-1973 - OLBB 6940 TTG - USASA - Telemetry Identification and Collection School - Ft. Devens, Mass.

1973-1974 - 6984 Scty. Sqd. - Shemya AFB - AAFJOG - E-Ops

1974-1975 - OLEB 6948 Scty. Sqd. (MBL) (DA) - Ft. Meade - W17 - Project Pony Express - USNS Gen. H.H. Arnold (TAGM-9)

After getting out spent 30 years in classified programs with:
1975-1978 - Electronic Systems Laboratories, Inc. (ESL,Inc. now owned by Northrop Grumman) Sunnyvale - SIGINT, COMINT, TELINT - Signals Analysis Tech - Navy Lab - Bulldog/Bullseye/Parameter Encoder/FAIROAKS - Project DERF

1978-1979 - Intercon - now part of Atlantic Research(?), Sunnyvale and OCONUS (UK) Systems Tech. - Large Analog/Digital Signal Processing System - Project Silkworth 
1979-1984 - Lockheed Missiles and Space - Sunnyvale and OCONUS (UK) Research Engineer, Project Runway, Large Analog/Digital Signal Collection Systems,
P-180 Systems Technician, P-377 System Technician, Sr.

1984- 2000 - Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin Defense Systems-Sunnyvale MCC-9/Denver OSF/BCF - Gold Crew - Systems Engineer Staff, Sunnyvale, Denver

2000-2008 - Lockheed Martin Special Programs - P-81/Military Support Programs - Systems Engineer Staff, Denver OSF

Retired from Lockheed Martin - December 31, 2008
Currently doing home based business Data Mining/Internet Research/Business Support to various online papers/blogs/reporters related to Privacy, Aerospace/Defense, Missile Defense, and events in the rest of the world.
Provided background for William Scotts book Counter Space - The Next Six Hours of World War III.
Contributed to on-line book by Adam Tanner - Behind the Data Curtain

"There Is No Easy Way To Get From The Earth To The Stars"
Mike Beuster
Blairsville, GA