Missile footprints

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Angeline Tyree
  • 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron
Thousands of Airmen over the decades have been sent out on-the-road as sentries to the world's most powerful strategic deterrent. Many crew members drive this part of the country and most see it as barren, under-developed land where the weather is always in control. But what most crews lose sight of are the footsteps of nearly 2,000 years of culture from the original inhabitants who called this land their home.

This heritage starts even before leaving base. The name Wyoming comes from an Algonquian Indian word. It is an English misinterpretation of a Lenape word Chwewamink, which means "by the big river flat." When it comes to the pre-settlers around the F.E. Warren area, there is a cross section of two tribes - the Northern Arapaho and the Shoshone. The Arapaho were the primary tribe in this location at the time of European settlers. Around base one can see the names of Native Tribes, makers of native history, and pictures of our early fort days with the native tribes at Crow Creek and of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

Traveling outside the base in the pursuit of national protection, one passes into two other states - Nebraska and Colorado. Traveling east toward the 319th Missile Squadron and 320th MS Complex, people drive into the Pine Bluffs area. Before the cowboys and cattle arrived, this area was home to numerous American Indian tribes. One can find evidence of this by the many teepee rings located in the area. As the railroad and demand for cattle increased, this location was where the cattle trails between Texas and Montana intersected with the Union Pacific railroad line.

Continuing east, one moves out of the Arapaho territory and into Pawnee land, around the Scotts Bluff area, which has a long history with many historical markers that can be seen while traveling to the missile alert facilities and launch facilities.

The MAFs and LFs of the retired 400th MS, which was the home of the Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles is north of Cheyenne. Further north is the little town of Chugwater, which is on the way to Guernsey Air Force Base. This little area got its name before any settlers came along.

Legend tells of a Mandan chief who was disabled during a tribal buffalo hunt. His son, Ahwiprie, also known as "The Dreamer," had to take charge of the hunt. Ahwiprie came up with a plan of driving the buffalo over the nearby cliffs into an ambush. When the buffalo were hit, they made a chug-like sound, either from the impact or the bursting of their stomachs. The place where the buffalo were stampeded was then called "water at the place where the buffalo chug," because of the stream which was close by.

Further North is the Oregon Trail Ruts, located near Guernsey. These "signature ruts" provide a vivid physical reminder of the old Oregon Trail. Here, thousands of wagon wheels and oxen hooves passed during the emigration period during the mid-1800s, gradually grinding the deep ruts into a layer of soft sandstone.

This is just a very small piece of a very large history of the native peoples and their history that we walk upon, drive through or patrol daily. Take a moment to reflect on the history of this land while protecting the security of the world.