Air Force Secretary Thanks 17th
for Greenland Souvenir
Just before his recent visit to the Alaskan Air Command, the Honorable Under Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Curtis W. Tarr, toured the domain of the 1st Air Force, which has the responsibility for the Greenland Ice Cap.
While there, an air crew of the 17th Tactical Airlift Squadron was called upon to carry Secretary Tarr to Dye Two, a remote radar station located 100 miles east of Sondrestrom AB, Greenland. Sondy serves as home base for the 17th resupply "life line" to the DYE sites on the Ice Cap.
When the aircraft, piloted by Major Richard Schmidt, arrived at the site, the winds were blowing at a mild 15 knots. By the time the party was ready to depart, an hour later, the wind speed had increased to 40 knots gusting to 60, making a takeoff impossible.
This meant the group would have to spend the night at the already filled site, which is kept fully manned by Danes. With the already crowded conditions, the men made room for another 16 people. Everyone took advantage of the situation, and the site people took up a partying attitude, as they hosted a complete Danish smorgasbord.
The next morning, winds had slackened and the 17th Firebird departed. For added thrust on the Cap which is more than 7,000 feet above sea level, four Assist Take Off (ATO) bottles were attached to each side of the aircraft. Shortly after the aircraft is off the ground, these bottles are jettisoned over the ice. It just happened that one of the release cables broke during this particular flight, causing a bottle to remain attached.
As soon as the aircraft landed, the crew removed the bottle, and stored it inside the aircraft. They left the next day with their rotation to Greenland from Elmendorf completed. They brought the bottle along. On the return flight, Major Art Spooner, mission commander at Sondy, composed the poem which was presented to Under Secretary Tarr along with the ATO bottle which had been cleaned, painted, and decorated with the 17th Firebird emblem, when he arrived for his tour of Elmendorf late in January.
Lt. Col. John C. Parker, 17th commander, made the presentation. He received a letter from the Under Secretary, a few weeks later, thanking him for the bottle to remember his night on the Greenland Ice Cap and flight with the 17th. He noted that the bottle is on permanent display in his office in Washington, and invited the 17th members to stop and see it when they are in the area.
Major Donald Thompson, navigator for the flight, explained that the bottles are expendable and are jettisoned as soon as the aircraft is over open ice. He added that these bottles almost never hang up on the aircraft, making the occasion doubly interesting.
Poem for Under Secretary Tarr
Oh, the tale is told, of the Firebird bold,
That inhabits the Greenland Cap.
He's a C-130, mean and dirty
And the DYE sites he put on the map.
To Sondy one day, in an elegant way
Came a fearless one-eighteen.
And the passenger came, but it wasn't the same,
On the Firebird, squat and mean.
To DYE Two they went,
but the weather it bent
And the winds they rocked the site.
For Mr. Tarr, it was one at the bar,
And to bed to spend the night.
The morn was clear, tho the chill was dear,
But the people they had to go.
So, we left the ice, and twas mighty nice
And the ATO we fired for show.
This bottle you see is meant to be,
A notice to near and far,
Of a Firebird bold, in the wind and cold
The Honorable Mister Tarr.
Maj. Art Spooner
Friday, February 13, 1970
Article courtesy of Richard Schmidt, Firebird Pilot