Pirmasens, Germany
A Data Communication Historical Series

Pirmasens, Germany (AUTODIN):

 

Data Source: DTH (Defense Message System Transition Hub) Pirmasens Web Site, and comments and pictures by Louie Rodriguez 

 

Note: the following initial statements and comments were obtained directly from the Pirmasens Web Site;  and following this part is an article from the Jul 1998 AUTODIN MONTHLY SUMMARY by L. West Sunderlandt.

 

Mission Statement:

The mission of the DTH Pirmasens is to operate and maintain a hybrid system of both Legacy Messaging Network (AUTODIN) and new DMS components operated by DISA as part of the DMS infrastructure.

 

·         The mission associated with the DMS components in the DTH is to provide the interoperability between DMS-compliant users/systems and Legacy Messaging Network (AUTODIN) systems/users that have not yet transitioned to the DMS interface between Legacy Messaging Network and DMS. Messages originated anywhere in either the Legacy or DMS domains can be addressed to the ultimate receiver and will be translated from one protocol environment to the other as necessary. The DTH provides the interface between organizations deriving messaging services via the Legacy Messaging Network and organizations deriving messaging services via the DMS customers during the transitional phase.

 

·         Legacy Messaging Network (AUTODIN) is a global, high speed, flexible, computer-controlled record communications system managed by the Defense Information System Agency (DISA). The current Legacy Messaging Network provides the Department of Defense (DOD) with a worldwide, highly reliable, multi-level secured, digital store and forward message switching communications system capable of meeting the record and data communications requirements within DoD and other federal government agencies as well as NATO. Legacy messaging network guarantees timely delivery, speed of service, multi-level security, message interoperability, message, character integrity, and plain language address to routing indicator (PLA to RI) processing capability. The Legacy Messaging Network maintains an operating efficiency rating of at least 99.9%.

 

   Both the Legacy Messaging Network and the DTH systems are managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

 

History of the Pirmasens AUTODIN Switching Center - By L. West Sunderland:

The earliest drawings still on site reflect construction being completed in late 1966. The site was turned over by the USAREUR Engineers on January 4th 1967. However, due to some wrangling amongst agencies, the first live traffic didn't pass until early 1969. From that birth, the Pirmasens ASC has progressed through a myriad of personnel and hardware changes. Through the more than thirty years and all the changes, the Pirmasens Germany ASC upheld the proud tradition of service provided by the Automatic Digital Network. The mission was important, always completed and always with pride. Over the many years, Pirmasens was often selected as the best in Europe. We often received the European Switch of the year award. When we didn't, we still thought we should have.

 

   The following is a brief synopsis of some of the highpoints. Pirmasens originated as an Army O & M responsibility. For the first three to four years the installation contractor, "Philco Ford", performed maintenance. The operation of the facility was the responsibility of assigned Army Personnel "Green Suiters". The earliest military unit at the local level was "STRATCOM Facility Pirmasens" (Strategic communications Command), An oversized battalion of around 800 Army Signal Corps members. Approximately 200 of these personnel were directly involved in running the Pirmasens ASC. In early 1974 STRATCOM Pirmasens was re-designated the 73rd Signal Battalion under the 5th Signal Command. Within the 73rd Signal Battalion, the 270th Signal Company was tasked with operating and maintaining the AUTODIN Switching Center. Our sister company, the 267th Signal Company was tasked with operating and maintaining the Primary Technical Control facility. From that point, although there were many changes in personnel, the unit designation remained constant until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent draw down of troop strength within Europe. We were passed from hand to hand like an orphan. The 270th Signal Company colors were retired in 1993, the command and control passed on to the 327th, Signal Company, 302nd Signal Battalion. The 302nd Signal Battalion was deactivated mid 1994; the command and control passed on to the 181st Signal Company, 43rd Signal Battalion. Early 1994 the Pirmasens AUTODIN underwent a major change of personnel.

 

   The fall of the Berlin Wall captured another victim. All military personnel were phased out in the early nineties. The transition to 37 Government Service Civilians for all sections except 5 Civilian Maintenance Personnel and 2 on site Programming Contractor Personnel was complete in 1994. Our present compliment of civilian workers was filled out primarily by transfers from our sister switches around the world, that is our current state today. Still running along nicely, passing traffic, doing a great job, making very little noise and trying to beat the next cutback.

 

   The compliment of personnel consisted of, and still does, very highly motivated professionals. A typical compliment of personnel during the rein of the military would have been around 200 military. The "Day Ladies" or straight day workers numbered in the forties. This is excluding the military unit management. On site was an Officer in Charge (OIC) of the site, at first a Lieutenant or Captain. This position later became a senior Warrant Officer position. The assistant or Station Chief was a Sergeant Major position. The major branches were Operations, Communications Security (COMSEC) , Maintenance, Special Security Office, Patch and Test, Programming and later the Security /MP Force. Each of these branches had at least one Warrant or Commissioned Officer in Charge and all but two had a Master Sergeant as NCOIC.

 

OPERATIONSs-65 person branch with seven sections.

COMMUNICATIONS SECURITY (COMSEC)-24 person branch with three sections. MAINTENANCE -45 person branch with six sections SPECIAL SECURITY OFFICE (SSO) was a Captain slot and later Sergeant First Class. PATCH AND TEST FACILITY-21 person branch with two sections. ONSITE PROGRAMMERS (OSP's) Civilian and Warrant officers, four total. Military Police Security Force-11 people on four shifts. The first major change in personnel occurred in June of 1988.

 

   Maintenance went from "Green Suit" to being contracted out. CONTEL assumed that maintenance responsibility with the advent of OPS 16. CONTEL later merged with GTE in 1991. After ten successful years the CONTEL/GTE contract was over. SAIC took over the maintenance in December 1996 and is currently conducting the maintenance of the AUTODIN equipment on site. At the same time as Maintenance, the programming shop went contract. DSA programmers from June 1988 to present have ably performed the OSP duties.

 

   Under the watchful eye of DCA, Operations was performed by U. S. Army AUTODIN experts. It was like a large family. After a while, no matter what AUTODIN Site you went to in the world, you would find someone you knew or heard of from a previous assignment.

 

   It is difficult to be brief on a lifetime of work and the dedication of so many, many "AUTODIN FOLKS". So excuse a little bit of nostalgia. What do you remember from the fielding of past OPS changes? Reminisce with us! Remember OPS 5 or 8? The history tapes opening and immediately closing and walking through every tape drive in the house until you couldn’t open a history and were down for an hour reload. Parameter tapes? The change out of the drums in 74. Odd and even taps. All the hardware upgrades. All the flux and change and still passing that traffic. AUTODIN is truly a family network. A collection of people and hardware transcending the hopes of its originators.

 

   The Pirmasens Automatic Digital Information Switching Center continues to be a proud member of the AUTODIN Family.

END

 

From the Jul 1998 AUTODIN MONTHLY SUMMARY

HISTORY OF THE PIRMASENS AUTODIN SWITCHING CENTER

By L. West Sunderland

 

     The earliest drawings still on site reflect construction being completed in late 1966.  The site was turned over by the USAEUR Engineers on January 4th, 1967.  However, due to some wrangling amongst agencies, the first live traffic didn’t pass until early 1969.  From that birth, the Pirmasens ASC has progressed through a myriad of personnel and hardware changes.  Through the more than thirty years and all the changes, the Pirmasens, Germany ASC upheld the proud tradition of service provided by the Automatic Digital network (AUTODIN0.  The mission was important, always completed, and always with pride.  Over its many years of history, Pirmasens was often selected as the best in Europe.  We often received the European Switch of the year award and when we didn’t, we still thought we should have.

 

     The following is a brief synopsis of some of our highpoints.  Pirmasens originated as an Army O&M responsibility.  For the first three to four years, maintenance was performed by the installation contractor, Philco-Ford.  The operation of the facility was the responsibility of assigned Army personnel, Green Suiters.  The earliest military unit at the local level was STRATCOM Facility Pirmasens, Strategic Communications Command, an oversized battalion of around 800 Army Signal Corps members.  Approximately 200 of these personnel were directly involved in running the Pirmasens ASC.  In early 1974, STRATCOM Facility Pirmasens was redesignated the 73rd Signal Battalion under the 5th Signal Command.  Within the 73rd Signal Battalion, the 270th Signal company was tasked with operating and maintaining the ASC.  Our sister company, the 267th Signal Company, was tasked with operating and maintaining the Primary Technical Control facility.  From that point on, although there were many changes in personnel, the unit designation remained constant until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent draw down of troop strength within Europe.  We were passed from hand to hand like an orphan.  The 270th Signal Company colors were retired in 1993, the command and control passed on the 327th Signal Company, 302nd Signal Battalion.  The 302nd Signal Battalion was deactivated mid-1994 and the command and control passed on to the 181st Signal Company, 43rd Signal Battalion.

 

     In the early 1990s, the Pirmasens ASC underwent a major change in personnel.  The fall of the Berlin Wall had claimed another victim—all ASC military personnel were phased out.  The transition to 37 Department of Army civilian employees for all functional areas of the ASC, except for maintenance and on-site software support (DISA contracts), was complete in 1994.  Our compliment of civilian workers was filled primarily by transfers from our sister switches around the world and that is our current state today.  Still running along nicely, passing traffic, doing a great job, making very little noise, and trying to beat the next cutback.

 

     The Pirmasens workforce has always consisted of, and still does today, very highly motivated professionals.  A typical compliment of personnel during the height of the military in Europe would have been around 200 billets.  The “day ladies” (straight day workers) numbered in the forties excluding the military unit management.  On site was an Office-in-Charge (OIC) of the site, at first a Lieutenant or Captain.  This position later became a senior Warrant Officer position.  The assistant or Station Chief was a Sergeant Major position.  The major functional areas were Operations, Communications Security (COMSEC), Maintenance, Special Security Office (SSO), Patch and Test Facility (PTF), Programming, and later the Security/Military Police force.  Each of these branches had at least one Warrant or commissioned officer in charge and all but two had a Master Sergeant as NCOIC.

     OPERATIONS – 65 person branch with seven sections.

     COMSEC – 24 person branch with three sections.

     MAINTENANCE – 45 person branch with six sections.

     SSO – was a Captain slot initially and later a Sergeant First Class slot.

     PTF – 21 person branch with two sections.

     PROGRAMMING – 4 person branch, civilians and Warrant Officers.

     SECURITY/MILITARY POLICE – 11 people on four shifts.

 

     The first major change in personnel occurred in June of 1988.  Maintenance went from “Green Suit” to being contracted out.  CONTEL assumed that maintenance responsibility with the advent of OPS-16 under a DISA managed contract.  CONTEL later merged with GTE in 1991.  After ten successful years, the CONTEL/GTE contract was over.  SAIC took over the maintenance in December 1996 as a sub-contractor to Boeing under the DSS-G contract, another DISA managed contract, and is currently conducting the maintenance of the AUTODIN equipment on site.

 

     At the same time that maintenance went under contract, the programming shop also went contract.  The OSP duties have been ably performed by DSA programmers from June 1988 to the present.

 

     Under the watchful eye of DCA (now DISA), Operations was performed by U.S. Army AUTODIN experts.  It was like a large family.  After a while, no matter what AUTODIN site you went to in the world, you would find someone you knew or knew about from a pervious assignment.

 

     It is difficult to be brief on a lifetime of work and when describing the dedication of so many, may “AUTODIN FOLKS”, so please excuse a little bit of nostalgia.  What do you remember from the fielding of past OPS changes:  Reminisce with us!  Remember OPS 5 or 8?  The history tapes opening and immediately closing and walking through every tape drive in the pool until you couldn’t open a history and were down for an hour reload.  Parameter tapes?  The change out of the drums in 74?  Odd and even taps?  All the hardware upgrades?  All the flux and change yet still passing that traffic.  AUTODIN is truly a family network.  A collection of people and hardware transcending the hopes of its originators.

 

     The Pirmasens ASC continues to be a proud member of the AUTODIN family and looks forward to the challenges of serving the European theater as the Pirmasens DMS Transition Hub (DTH).
 

Comments by Louie Rodriguez:

I worked at the Pirmasens AUTODIN Switching Center. I was there from 1991 until we closed in 2004. I was the person responsible for the closure of the switch and turning  the building keys to DPW. I started out as the NCOIC of COMSEC, and upon going civilian, I became once again COMSEC Chief and Special Security Officer. I worked with some many great folks such as; My favorite Director Uncle Walt, Rogers Mungin, Ron Railing, Darna Whisenton, Len Dively, Chuck McGannon Billy Brooks, Ivan Winners, Ken Bortz, Ken Mormon, Steve Manuel, and some many other wonderful folks.

 

It was always such a great pleasure to see Terry Damon at our site. Terry did really love AUTODIN, and he was like a father figure to all us.

 

I still get teary eyes at the date when Mr. Rogers Mungin “pull the plug” and we shut down the switch. In all my entire years working as a communicator, I have never worked with such a tightly knit family such as ours. I have moved on, but I will never forget my years at the Pirmasens ASC. I’m still here in Germany, and always make sure that I go out of my way and drive by the “old switch “building.

 

I have enclosed a few of photos of the switch:

 

 
 
 
Louie Rodriguez

COMSEC Chief

Pirmasens AUTODIN 1991-2004

END
 
Comments by Lori Warren

I really enjoyed your web site with the information about Pirmasens. I was in the 270th Signal and worked at the switch for several years. Thanks for the memories

 

(SSGT) Lori Warren

 

Comments by Davis (Dave) Watkins

I worked at Pirmasens, Germany AUTODIN from 1973 to 1976. I was a 34F DSTE repair and cross trained as a 34L but also worked on the ADMSE equipment (34H) as well at the peripheral. It was so long ago that I do not remember that much, but I was and Spec 5 when I got there and got promoted to Spec 6 while there. I remember changing units while there I did not remember which number STRATCOM but I did not remember 270 Company.

 

I remember bringing in the platters to replace the drum storage and the trouble we had keeping them running because of the air hoses leaking and the heads crashing. They were talking about replacing the computers with DEC PDP 11 but did not see them arrive. I worked for about 4 months in the power room waiting for my clearance to come. I was in the power room when they brought in the digital equipment to replace the analog motor generators. I remember standing behind the cabinet with a safety hook while an installer cabled in the main power to the power input, I think it was 440V but not sure and thinking that if he gets across that I will not be able to pull him off in time. I also worked on the teletypes when we all the 31J lost their clearance. I was very logical and could learn about anything.

 

I remember one time with the site was down for about 10 days while we tried to get a transistor to fix a board and we keep getting a replacement that did not work. Looking at the signal on a scope the replacement had a dip in the signal. The system would work for up to 30 minutes after getting booted up to not booting up. We were told to keep it down until it was fixed. One night I was the only repairman on site and the Battalion Commander came in and told me to bring it up, I informed him we were not fixed yet and we were not supposed to bring it up. He ordered me to bring it up so I call the ops out told them to bring it up. It got all the way up and the teletypes started working and DC started to ask me if it was fixed and it crashed. I was called back to telecom within 10 seconds of it crashing to talk to some general. I informed him I was ordered to bring it up by my commander so I did he wanted to talk him and I know he was getting chewed out because I keep hearing “yes sir” and was told to keep it down until it was fixed.

I ETS out of the army when I got back to the states after my 3 years I remember I had a good time,

 

Davis (Dave) Watkins SP6