Beginning of the 90th

  • Published
  • By Mike Byrd
  • 90th Missile Wing historian
The 90th Strategic Missile Wing came to life in the midst of buzzing activity and controlled chaos. The initial task of Col. Floyd Wikstrom, 90th SMW commander, and his staff of 31 officers and 43 Airmen was difficult and unnerving. Following the July 1, 1963, activation ceremony of the 90th SMW, wing activity concentrated on planning, training, observing and waiting. There was much to accomplish but no operational missile units as yet activated.

The operational missile units -- the 319th Strategic Missile Squadron, the 320th SMS, the 321st SMS and the 400th SMS -- were not active because construction of 200 Minuteman sites, which began on Oct. 25, 1962, were in progress at varying degrees. The sheer magnitude of the construction covered more than 12,000 square miles and required upwards of 2,000 daily laborers. The excavation for the operational sites required the moving of 2.7 million cubic yards of earth and rock, which is comparable to digging an irrigation ditch five feet wide and five feet deep, from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City -- a distance of 500 miles. The largest project in Wyoming history required 219,000 cubic yards of concrete. The movement of the dry concrete required more than 10,000 railroad cars from Laramie to Cheyenne. Also, the trenching activity that laid more than 2,250 miles of communication cable between launch control facilities, missile silos and Warren initiated June 25, 1963, were ongoing.

Construction activity was seemingly everywhere. In 1963, the well-established 809th Combat Support Group increased their support oversight of the 389th Strategic Missile Wing and their 20 Atlas missiles including the 90th SMW and the base. This oversight included base facilities under construction at the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Buildings 205 through 251 required remodeling to alter the classroom configurations of the 1950s to office and living space for incoming 90th personnel. Also during this time a rail spur and missile transfer and receiving area were constructed as were additional parking lots and additional utilities added.

During the construction frenzy, two contracted civilians were killed. One civilian was ran over and killed by a front end roller and the other killed when his vehicle collided with a train. The 90th SMW swiftly initiated a program that required all government vehicles to stop at all off-base railroad crossings and that all vehicles would be driven with lights on.

Ninetieth SMW personnel undergoing training at Chanute Technical Training Center, Chanute Air Force Base, Ill., this time were eight officers who attended the Missile Launch Officer Course and Missile Officer Course and four who attended various maintenance courses. Ninetieth SMW Command Post personnel received on-the-job training at the 389th SMW Command Post located in the basement of Building 250. Also, during the last week of July 1963, Air Training Command personnel and Boeing personnel performed two-week familiarization briefings to all personnel assigned to 90th SMW.

In August 1963, Wikstrom; Col. Willard Gilbert, 90th SMW vice commander; Col. Harold Strack, deputy commander of operations; and Col. John Child, deputy commander of maintenance, visited the Minuteman Wings at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Ellsworth, N.D., in preparation for the operational standup of the 90th SMW.