Ron's History of the USAFSS
From 1948 till 1979 there existed a little known command within the U. S. Air Force known as the Security Service (USAFSS). We were developed because the first USAF Chief of Staff had a lot of faith in COMINT/SIGINT as a result of his WWII experiences. Our first "brothers-in-arms" were pulled directly from the Army Security Agency. USAFSS developed its own missions, targets, and began assembling its own support equipment to accomplish mission effectiveness. By the time I joined the AF, we looked like regular AF grunts, wore AF uniforms ("fatigues" or "1505s"), were paid by the AF, were led by AF officers, but the products we produced were shared by the Air Force and the spooks of the National Security Agency. We were assigned, primarily, to overseas bases that a lot of other Air Force personnel never heard of (almost none of these exist anymore). Our plain looking and windowless operations buildings were surrounded by steel fences and barbed wire, and patrolled 24 hours a day. Inside, we spent most of our time just trying to maintain our sanity, working rotating shifts (what is a holiday or weekend?), listening to anything and everything.
Here is an aisle of X1 (Morse Intercept) racks/positions (and no, I did not take this any of these pictures)
Some X2s worked a position called TEBO, like this one. It was part of X2 school, but I never saw it afterwards.
X2, analysts, and comm guys alike, can empathize with this guy in "papertape hell"
Our official jobs were cloaked in secrecy; listening to the woes (sometimes entertaining) and wonders (sometimes very entertaining) of the world, via our trusty R-390A/URR receivers connected to a myriad of complex devices: printers, re-keyers, recorders, printers and other exotic devices such as the AN/FLR-9 antenna array. While the job was only occasionally exciting, the locations offered (to the fortunate ones) the opportunity to travel and experience some of the finest (or not so fine, depending on the country of residence) entertainment and wonders known to man. Here are listed a few of these vacation spots:
- Incirlik, Samsun, Karamursel*, and Trabzon, all sites in Turkey - famous for meerschaum pipes, and rugs but I'm not sure what else.
- Iraklion, Crete - Ouzo, raki, Valley of the Windmills, and home to the Knossians
- Germany (Augsburg*, Dormstadt, just too many sites to list) - BEER, 100s of kinds of wurst!!!
- Peshawar, Pakistan - worse than Incirlik (maybe worse than anywhere)
- Shemya, Alaska - yes, it is part of the US, but not a big tourist spot!
- Elmendorf AFB*, Alaska - one of the few sites that are still in operation
- San Vito, Italy* - known for pizza and Vespas, Duh!
- Osan, Korea - kimshee (pheew!)
- Key West, FL - Ok, you've heard of it, but have you actually been there?
- Da Nang, RVN - It wasn't a big site, but it sure was active!
- Ramasun AB*, Udorn, Thailand - Oh come on, General Tso's chicken
- RAF Chicksands*, United Kingdom - Darts, Mini-Minors, or Fish & Chips anyone?
- Japan: Yakota, Misawa* - Sushi? Hondas, stereos...?
- Clark AB*, Republic of the Philippines - San Miguel, LBFMs, monkey-on-a-stick, and other stuff
* Sites with AN/FLR-9 antennas (which, by the way,were an Air Force development, not the NSA)
In 1979, as a direct result of the digital age, the Security Service was renamed Electronic Security Command. It gained new missions, new techniques, and saw the demise of older technologies (HF was dying), manual morse, radio-printer, etc. Another reorganization a few years later resulted in the Air Intelligence Command, subsequently it was downgraded to the still spooky, Air Intelligence Agency (AIA). Continued re-organizations within the USAF have completely absorbed the various missions into different sub-groups. The latest iterationthat remotely resembles the old USAFSS is the Air Force Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance Agency (AFISR).