Rothwesten Operations

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

Tuesday morning was a little busy. I had borrowed Sergeant Z’s jeep again to get my new uniform taken care of as far as new patches and the like sewn on and laundered. By this evening, I should start to look like a soldier again. When I brought the jeep back at noon, I stopped at the orderly room with an armload of new laundry.

“Any word on my clearance papers?” I asked. I was getting anxious to get to work.

“Nothing yet. Sergeant Z has been trying to build a fire in personnel for you. I think he sort of likes you,” the clerk said.

With nothing to do, the afternoon was a real drag. The swing shift guys were just starting to stir. I would be bored to death if those papers don’t come through pretty soon.

Just about this time, my roommate comes through the door. He is a little excited and starts throwing things into a bag like he is going away for a few days.

“What’s up?” I ask.

“They have serious problems at one of the DF sites. The new TRD-23 is down, and the maintenance guy there can’t get it fixed. Anyway, they are sending me up there to take care of things,” he says.

“I can tell you how to fix the thing. We had the same problems in Korea a few months ago, and I spent a couple of weeks with the factory team,” I say.

“No need; I am perfectly competent. I will have it up with in the first hour that I am there.”

Smouse was right. This guy was a real jackass. If I give him any information, it will be just enough to hang himself. He heads out the door with his bag.

“I expect to be back by tomorrow night,” he says as he heads down the hall.

Wednesday morning, when I checked, Sergeant Z had my papers and badge. He hands me the envelope and I am all smiles.

“I have called the operations gate, and they are expecting you. So is Sergeant Moyer. He is maintenance NCOIC, a good man,” Sergeant Z says. “I’ll have the clerk run you out there as soon as you’re ready. It’s not too far to walk, but I know you’re ready to get to work.”

Sergeant Z had coached the MP at the operations gate well. He took my papers and glanced at the badge. “You drop that here when you leave, and we keep it on the board,” he said.

Smouse was sitting at a large desk in the middle of the maintenance shop. He had worked himself into the desk job. He jumped up and showed me around the shop and took me on a tour of the operations building. Other than Smouse, there was nobody who I knew. When we got back to the shop, he introduced me to Sergeant Moyer.

Sergeant Moyer was about average height and in good shape. His short dark hair was starting to get sparse on top. He seemed a little preoccupied and not very talkative.

I told Sergeant Moyer that I had a lot of factory-trained experience on the TRD-23 and could help them with any problems they might have. He assured me that they had their best man on the job, and it should be fixed in no time.

“If you don’t have any power transistors in supply, you should be getting some on order, 2N174. I suggest you order as many as they will allow you to order,” I said.

“Here, we handle orders by the book. We are not authorized to order supplies that we have not documented that we have a need for them,” Moyer says. “You will find that we follow the book around here.”

That was all he had to say. Time would show him that he needed to bend those rules once in a while.

Smouse showed me my workbench and handed me a toolbox. He shrugged his shoulders and tilted his head toward Moyer, “He is alright most of the time. But times like this are why I work at that desk. The DF network is down, and it will be his ass if it is not up and running in a short time.”

I sat on my stool and thought, here I am at work with nothing to do. Just about that time, a tall, thin Sp4 entered the shop and came over to my desk. He looked young to me, and I wasn’t twenty-three yet.

“Hi, I’m Jim Simpson from the DF center. We heard that you came from Korea, and I know that they are very functional in DF and Radio Fingerprinting. We wondered if we could get you to look at our RFP unit. It has been down for about two years now.”

“I’m Dave Larsen,” I said as I extended my hand. “What the hell are you talking about. How could that unit be down for two years?”

“Nobody here seems to know how to work on it,” he replied as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Let’s get a look. I took care of the unit at the 177th. It is complex, but everything comes together if you go about it systematically.”

After looking things over, I looked at him and shook my head. “It might take me two or three hours, but we should be up and running by mid-afternoon.” Jim just looked at me blankly. I wasn’t sure if that meant he had heard that line before.

Since this had sat for 2 years, the first step was to go through and check all the tubes. Hopefully, supply would have replacements. After Moyer’s comments earlier, I was a little concerned about that part of the project. 

After all the tubes were checked and the bad ones replaced, I started through the alignment. In Korea, I usually had the next in line working with me. Being new in the shop and working on something they had neglected for two years, I had no new guy to be an understudy. That required a lot of extra steps when I started alignment on the CRT deflections. I finally talked with Jim, and he came and helped out a little, so I didn’t have to run from the back to the front all the time.

Working through the lunch hour brought some attention from Mr. McCann. He was the CWO who was the DF Operations officer. He had been sitting and watching the process for the last hour. It was about 2:30 when I had Jim pull up a signal and turn on the camera. I was worried that the high-speed camera might also be a problem if it had sat for two years without being used.

The signal came up, the camera ran, and everything looked good. Now we just had to wait until Jim developed the film. I sat back and relaxed for a minute. Mr. McCann looked at his watch.

“When did you start on this?” He asked.

“I don’t know. It must have been 11:30 or so this morning. I had to test all the tubes and get replacements from supply, which took a while. Usually, this alignment only takes an hour or an hour and a half.” I said.

Jim was excited when he returned with the film. He stood stripping through 10 feet of the paper film before handing it to Mr. Cann.

“How come you can come in here on the first morning and fix this unit when that shop has not been able to get it to run for the last 2 years?” Mr. Cann asked.

“Beats me, pretty standard stuff in my view. In Korea, we limited the people who could work on the until to one man, like myself, and a new kid who would work into my place. Too many hands in the soup make bad soup.”

“Don’t you worry. This is your baby from here on out!” Mr. McCann said.

I picked up my tools and closed the back of the unit. Jim was getting a crew together. They had a lot of work to do to catch up on stuff they had missed for the last couple of years.

When I got back to shop, Mr. McCann was at Moyer’s desk.

“Larsen has just fixed the RFP unit. He has done in two hours what your entire shop has failed to do in the last two years. I want Larsen to be the only maintenance man to touch that unit, period. Do you understand?” McCann said in a loud enough voice that the entire shop could hear.

Moyer was not too happy but busied himself at his desk. Maybe half an hour later, the phone rings. It’s my roommate from the Det. He tells Moyer that he has problems figuring out just what the problem is with the TRD-23, and he thought he might benefit from talking with me. Moyer calls me over to his desk and hands me the phone.

My roommate starts running down the list of his checks. He is way out in left field, but I listen as he goes on and on.

“Have you checked the two power transistors in the rotor power supply?” I ask, almost as if it is an afterthought.

“I have checked them 3 times, and they are fine,” he replies.

“They have an emitter to collector short, and they need to be replaced,” I said.

A long silence, “I have checked them 3 times, and they are fine,” he says again.

“I don’t have anything else to help you,” I say as I hand the phone to Moyer.

He tells Moyer he will be a few days longer than expected. When Moyer hangs up the phone, I tell him he had better get some transistors on order.

Smouse almost snickers. After the dust settles, he drops by my bench and says he thinks I am causing more havoc in the shop than it has seen in a long time. Moyer comes over and says he is assigning me to the swing shift starting tonight. I think he wanted me out of his hair. It was going to be a long day. Moyer sent me to dinner early so I would be set for the shift starting at 4:00.

The first night they sent me with a couple of guys to do maintenance on a transmitter at a nearby Air Force detachment. These guys were excited about the job. “This is an excellent way to spend the evening without having to do much,” Jim said. “This is a radar station located on another hilltop, not far from Rothwesten. 

“I didn’t know much about transmitters,” I said. But these two assured me it would be a good trip.

I can’t say that much was accomplished. These guys checked some gauges and made sure the thing was running. Then we sat around and shot the breeze with the Air Force guys, played some pool, and drank some beer. We started back to Rothwesten about 11:00, planning to get back just in time for shift change. It had started to snow while we were there, and it was snowing hard when we walked to the car.

We drove down the hill, the snow was not quite a white-out, but it was really coming down. The guy driving was straining to see, knowing that the main road was coming up anytime. Suddenly, there was the road, and we were speeding across it. We bounced across the shoulder and were in the middle of a snow-covered plowed field.

“Whatever you do, don’t stop, or we will never get going again,” I shouted from the back seat.

We drove in a wide circle and came back to where we could see the gate to the road. We drove through the open gate and right back onto the road. I would not have believed it would be possible. We laughed all the way back to Rothwesten. Actually, we were pretty lucky the field was there.

When I reported to the shop the next night, Mr. McCann and Sergeant Moyer were waiting to talk to me. The new TRD-23 at Munster was down and had been for several days now. It was desperately needed as the entire DF network was nonfunctional without it.

“How much do you know about this problem?” Mr. McCann asked, not giving Moyer a chance to say a word.

“I can fix it in a few hours if I can come up with the correct transistors. I have been suggesting that we get them on order for several days now. I spent several weeks with the factory team in Korea. I can train the on-site maintenance man to handle the problem.” I replied.

“I want him up there tomorrow!” McCann said to Moyer as he turned and left the room.

“You better go and get packed and get some rest,” Moyer said. “We will see at 8:00 in the morning. Bring your bags and be ready to go.

I arrived at the shop the next morning with my bag in hand. My roommate was there. He was pulled home overnight. He still couldn’t believe that he was unable to fix the problem. I didn’t have anything more to say to him.

Photo by Bruce Richards at

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

One thought on “Rothwesten Operations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: