Re: Any attempts at getting into A51?

Message posted by Hal on September 22, 2003 at 9:48:11 PST:

I don't recall the specific gate, but I do recall getting lost and having folks in jeeps come to our aid. Our directions were pretty straight-forward for someone coming from So. CA, but we came from a different direction--we realized that we needed some hardware that we had deployed to China Lake and went there first. We were driving a Navy van that we checked out of the motor pool at Pt. Mugu--that was specified on our orders--military vehicle instead of civilian--would have prefered a civilian rented vehicle as the air conditioner would have probally worked better.

There were some vehicles (cars) outside the fence when we drove through, we slowed thinking that there may have been an accident. People were just standing around looking across the fence. They really looked us over as we drove slowly past and onto the range, continuing down the road. The gate (to me a gate is a guard shack)we went through was just over a rise from the fence area--there being no gate (that we saw) at the fence-line across the road. At the time we thought that they were protestors of some sort--had seen similar things in Puerto Rico. We later came out this way and there was no actual gate across the road at the fence line--the guard shack being a half mile or so from there.

At the first security gate we were given a rather cursory examination of the contents of the van--I've been searched more extensively at other government test ranges, Echo Range at China Lake and a certain remote range at Yuma, for example. Our orders and IDs were thoroughly checked. Here we picked up our escorts. There was another gate some miles past the first, just another orders check and we were on our way.

Didn't go any place else on the range and we had our food with us in a cooler. I was suprised that the cooler wasn't searched, but it only had food and drinks in it. Previously, at White Sands, I had placed carefully wrapped camera equipment under the ice in a cooler--then I was tasked with photographing our test site, but the idiot guard wouldn't allow the camera stuff in even though it was specified on my orders and I had been certified an official Navy photographer.

Back to A-51: As we set up our equipment at the designated place--portable generator for power and various pieces of microwave hardware, we could hear sound coming from elsewhere, engine testing we surmised. When the aircraft got to our location, the leader of our escorts told me to keep my attention on the area of our tests and that if we looked in certain other (he designated) directions that he had orders to shoot us!! He may have just been joking around, but I don't work that way. Amid his protests we packed everything up and got back in our van, refusing to do the tests.

Since we couldn't drive anywhere on the place without escort, there was somewhat of a standoff, with me refusing to do the tests and him refusing to escort us off the place!! After some tense minutes (~20) he relented and escorted us back to the first gate we had come through.

Got into some trouble over this, but not serious, since my technician backed up the statements in my report.

At the time I had never heard of A-51 or its mystique, it WAS, as hard as it may be for some folks to believe, just another desert test range to me. At one time or another (over 31 years) I had been to them all! Exception being S-4.


In Reply to: Re: Any attempts at getting into A51? posted by Andre' M. Dall'au on September 20, 2003 at 8:45:44 PST:


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