NOTAM: M0384/09 - LARGE FORCE EXERCISE IN PROGRESS DAILY FROM 0730L-0845L AND 1130L-1215L. 18 NOV 15:45 2009 UNTIL 19 NOV 20:45 2009. CREATED: 16 NOV 22:25 2009
I drove up to Rachel with my camper in tow on Tuesday 11/17 and arrived at the Inn just in time for lunch and to get a RV hook up for my stay. The temperature was dipping down into the teens the last few nights and I was the Inn's only resident. After eating and setting up the RV it was already starting to get dark -around 4:30pm. Later that night I did a little star gazing. Saw some flares North of Tempiute Mountain, then called it a night.
I woke up Wednesday with the temperature hovering just above 20ºF I had some coffee then drove up to Cedar Gate. There was no activity at the gate or at the KENO airstrip. After about an hour an employee leaving the gate in a SUV pulled over next to me. He asked me if I was ok? I said Yes and I was here to watch the MAFEX exercise. I asked him if he knew if it would be held here at KENO airfield. I believe his exact words were, "I have no idea..." which I felt he was sincere about.
Around 11am I decided to drive to the "cactus" gate and explore the mystery chevron located at: 37° 43.585'N, 116° 9.761'W. You can not see it from ground level. But now I wish I would have asked the Roadrunners if they used it as a navaid on their missions during last month's panel discussion. Darn...
After that I headed back but stopped at the Ranch for a photo. I climbed the small hill behind the ranch just as a Cammo Dude drove by -probably to check on the gate I was just at. I imagine they have road sensors going out there too. Just then I saw a hugh cloud of dust at the KENO Strip. I ran down the hill and drove around 80 mph over the pot hole road back to Cedar Gate! HUMMER baby!
When I got there, there was a C-17 Globemaster sitting on the dirt airfield. Just to the left of the gate was a Roland Radar unit with it's dish spinning and two A-10s flying between the C-17 and RADAR. Just then a Smokey SAM was launched behind a pick up truck parked near the RADAR site. The C-17 turned around and took back off to the North then turned East in front of Reveille Peak. After a few minutes another one headed in from the north to land. He did the same, landed and stayed for about 10 minutes turned around and took back off in the same direction. After about 10 more minutes a C-130 was inbound to land.
After this one took off I really wished I was at the KENO view spot so I decided to haul ass over to it. As I made my way I saw another C-130 come and go. As I was just about there, I saw another C-17 inbound and pulled over at: 37° 48.302'N, 116° 15.463'W. He took off turned right in front of me then passed by 500 feet away from me and about 250 feet off the ground. Unfortunately, nothing else came in for the rest of the day.
Thursday, I headed back out there because the notam said daily until 11/19. On my way to Cedar Gate I passed some test equipment mounted in a cargo trailer. I pulled over to take some pictures of his antenna array. No one was inside the pickup but the AC in the trailer was on and I could hear a scanner going. In hindsight, I wish I would have scanned to see what frequency he was on. Then I went back to the KENO view spot. There was no activity there and no support trucks like the day before. After an hour or two I left. When I passed the spot where the test truck was parked, he was already gone.
I headed back to the Inn for some lunch. Next to me was a guy from the Netherlands asking about the Back Gate. I told him when he was done eating I'll take him out there as he seemed nervous. He rented the same HUMMER that I own so we took his. Along the way, we pulled over so I could show him one of the buried road sensors. He didn't believe me until I dusted it off and showed him the cable out to the road! He kept shaking his head the rest of the way to the border! At the gate, he was nervous about taking pictures, I pointed to the camera on the pole and said they're taking pictures of you! I got him a good souvenir photo of him standing next to the sign which says "No Photography!" Too bad I don't remember his name but I asked him to do a Trip Report when he got home...