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Life on A Nike Site

" We are the Nike boys, we play with tinker toys, we raise our missiles up and down but they never leave the ground. "

Nike soldiers were dedicated to defending the country at a moments notice. Men passed countless hours training and maintaining equipment to accomplish a mission that, fortunately, never had to be executed. The saying cited above circulated amongst the Nike crews, articulating one interpretation of the mission. Warrant Officer Don Neal of Battalion Headquarters explained how the daily routine could be simultaneously demanding and tedious for the typical soldier:

It was sort of like having a Cadillac limousine sitting out here in the driveway and everyday you have to wash it, you have to grease it, you have to take it apart, you have to check the air pressure. Sometimes you've got to change the brake lining, whether you need it or not. But your never allowed to start it and drive away with it. And you can see that after four or five years of that it gets real boring in that way. They'd go out and the launchers would start to rust, so they'd scrape all the launchers off and then they'd paint the launchers and they'd paint the racks and a guy like me would come along and gig him for painting over the grease fittings and painting over the gauges. So take all that off and get it right and six months later they were rusting and they'd have to do it all again. And a guy that spent two years on a Nike site up here has probably torn apart twenty missiles and put them together, probably painted his launcher twenty times that got a whole lot of guys like me that are trying to catch him doing something wrong. I mean not that we wanted to find something wrong, but our job was to find out about it if there were. So in the mean time, after painting launchers all day, he'd getting rocked out of bed in the middle of the night [for Operational Readiness Inspections].

Nike duty was similar to combat duty in that a constant state of readiness was required. It was as close to a combat situation as you could get except nobody was shooting at you". I imagine it tired them out. They were under constant pressure, remembered Jackson Murray. Yet there were some marked differences from combat duty. The following statement was made in reference to anti-aircraft artillery operations, but it is an equally applicable description of the Nike service:

Soldiers at such stations are not faced with frequent crises. Rather, their existence is marked by monotony and seeming purposelessness. Like other soldiers, they are there to meet crisis when it comes. The difference is that crisis does not come to them in peacetime and their lot is to wait and to watch.  Passive defense, with its vigilance tasks and its monotony, certainly offers different stresses and different rewards from those offered to the soldier in the field.41

Nike batteries on fifteen-minute alert status had to be up and ready to operate around the clock. There were only around 110 men per battery to carry out the mission. Shifts were generally 24-hours on, 24-hours off. Even batteries on the lower alert statuses had an incredible amount of maintenance work to keep up with.

  • Copied from the following publication.
  • Military Small Group Performance Under Isolation and Stress. Critical Review III. Environmental Stress and Behavior Ecology. Technical Documentary Report AAL-TDR-62-33. Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, Air Force Systems Command, Fort Wainwright, Alaska. June 1962.
  • Life on a Nike Site although it is sort of "Tongue in  Cheek" it sums up the daily routine we went through. "Webmaster"



More to Come


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Secert Stuff from WWII

Hosted by Moose Creek Nike Updated on January 8, 2012  •