After graduating from technical school at Keesler AFB my next duty station was Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. I arrived at the base on Tuesday September 18, 1979 around 11:00am. I drove to the Airmen base housing area, and met with my supervisor who instructed me on the orientation that would take place that week. I was assigned to the F15 Systems Programming Office in the Aeronautical Systems Division in Area-B.
Wright Patterson is rich in it’s aviation history dating back to WWII. The base's origins begin with the establishment of Wilbur Wright Field on 22 May and McCook Field in November 1917, both established by the Army Air Service as World War I installations. McCook was used as a testing field and for aviation experiments. Wright was used as a flying field (renamed Patterson Field in 1931); Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot; armorers’ school, and a temporary storage depot. McCook's functions were transferred to Wright Field when it was closed in October 1927. Wright-Patterson AFB was established in 1948 as a merger of Patterson and Wright Fields.
Wright-Patterson AFB is one of the largest, most diverse, and organizationally complex bases in the Air Force. It has a long history of flight tests spanning from the Wright Brothers into the Space Age.
It is the headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, one of the major commands of the Air Force. Wright-Patt (as the base is colloquially called) is also the location of a major USAF Medical Center (hospital) where my daughter was born, the Air Force Institute of Technology, and the National Museum of the United States Air Force, formerly known as the U.S. Air Force Museum.
It is also the home base of the 445th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command, an Air Mobility Command-gained unit which flies the C-17 Globemaster heavy airlifter. Wright-Patterson is also the headquarters of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory. The Air Force Research Laboratory itself has a rich history.
While serving in Area-B I would often go to the Research Laboratory. Most people don’t know this but the Air Force was developing technology in the early 1980s that would allow a pilot to control the aircraft by using their thoughts. This was long before today’s technology ever existed. I saw the research with my own eyes. The research directorate is composed of a diverse group of scientists and engineers studying developing technologies specific to the human element of warfighting capability. They lead the Air Force in its human-centered research, and integrate biological and cognitive technologies to optimize and protect the Airman's capabilities to Fly, Fight, and Win in Air, Space, and today’s Cyberspace.
In early 1980 I was assigned to the Air Force Systems Directorate in Area-B.
Project Sign (Project Grudge in 1949, Project Blue Book in March 1952) was WPAFB's T-2 Intelligence investigations of unidentified flying objects (UFO) reports that began in July 1947. In 1951, the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) began analysis of crashed Soviet aircraft from the Korean war. In March 1952, ATIC established an Aerial Phenomena Group to study reported UFO sightings, including those in Washington, DC, in 1952.
By 1969 the Foreign Technology Division (FTD) and its predecessor organizations had studied 12,618 reported sightings: 701 remained unexplained when the Air Force closed its UFO investigations, and a 1968 report concluded that "there seems to be no reason to attribute [the unexplained sightings] to an extraterrestrial source without much more convincing evidence." FTD sent all of its case files to the USAF Historical Research Center, which transferred them in 1976 to the National Archives and Records Service in Washington, DC, which became the permanent repository of the Project Sign/Grudge/Blue Book records.
In a 1988 interview, Senator Barry Goldwater claimed he had asked Gen. Curtis LeMay for access to a secret UFO room at WPAFB and an angry LeMay said, "Not only can't you get into it but don't you ever mention it to me again."
Most people are familiar with the story of hanger 18 but few have seen the real hanger-18 in person. Many books and movies have been made about it to entertain the masses. But the real hanger-18 is just a hanger that was used from WWII until it was renamed in the later part of the twentieth century. While working in Area-B of Wright Patterson I visited one of the hangers. While standing in the entrance of one of the hangers I saw an inscription in the concrete that said Hanger-18. I didn’t think much of it but thought it was cool.