July 1970- July 1971
Power plant - Bottom Camp
here for pictures
I arrived at Elmendorf in July 1971.
Since I had just married in June, and lived in Florida all my life, I
was not happy about going on a remote assignment to Alaska. My original
orders were for Sparrevon, but I was diverted to Indian Mountain while
I arrived on site in August. I know that I was still at Elmendorf
August 10th, because that was my 21st birthday, and I bought my first
pint of legal booze right outside the gate. I worked in the Bottom Camp
power plant, and only traveled to Top Camp once. When Top Camp lost
their water, I was especially happy not to be there.
The Inspector General visited and decided that all of the dogs that
hung around the site had to be given rabies shots. We had about eight
dogs that were friendly (there were more that we couldn’t catch). Since
the medic was afraid of dogs, I was assigned the shot detail, and gave
shots to all of the dogs that we could catch. We had to also tag them.
Since the only collar material that we had was chain, the dogs were not
happy campers. Their days of sneaking up on rabbits were over, since
their brass collars could now easily be heard.
For inside entertainment we drank, played poker, played volleyball,
shot pool, and watched movies. Everyone knew how to thread the
projector, so you could watch a movie whenever you felt like it. Since
I was a shift-worker, I watched movies at all hours. Outside, we played
softball and wandered about. The Gold Camp was a popular summer
destination. Luckily, when I was there summer fell on a weekend. The 24
hour daylight was not always a good thing. I remember softball games
after the bar closed. Drunks are not good softball players.
Indians from Hughes used to visit during the winter, when the river
froze and they ran out of booze. We were only supposed to sell them
beer, but we snuck them the hard stuff. Some came in dog sleds and some
in snow machines. The ones in dog sleds got home okay. Some of the snow
machine drivers didn’t get much past the runway – until they sobered up!
While putting up a sign in the Power Plant my ladder fell and I hit my
face against the concrete floor. Luckily, I didn’t land a few feet to
the left where the grates were. I would’ve been “Waffle Face,” and
would’ve probably bled to death. Since I was the only one there, I’m
not sure how long I was out. I remember paging someone to relieve me,
and the shocked look on the face of the first arriver. I had two
operations at Elmendorf to repair my fractured cheek, jaw, and eye
orbit. I still have wires in my face. The hospital’s especially lonely
when all of your family is in Florida, and the hospital’s in Alaska.
Needless to say, I had few visitors. Alas, after about 45 days in the
hospital, I had to go back to Indian Mountain. I must admit, though, it
was good to see familiar faces again.
Just prior to my fall, a civilian in the heating shop offered my
roommate and myself $50 each to shave our heads. We both had over 5
months remaining, and figured that no one would see us before our hair
grew back, so we each made a quick $50. My roommate was right. No one
saw him until his hair grew back. I was wrong. Plenty of hospital
personnel got plenty of laughs over my shaved head.
I remember the faces like it was yesterday, and the nicknames. I just
can’t remember all of the names. It would be wonderful to see those
guys again. We were like brothers. Alas, over 35 years have passed.
When I was there, I was one of the youngest. Like me, the ones
who are still living are much older now. When I left Indian Mountain,
you were probably getting your Arctic Survival training at Elmendorf.
If we would’ve met at Elmendorf you probably would’ve remembered. I was
a very happy camper, ready to return to Florida, probably drinking more
than I should have.
In 1973 I returned to Alaska. This time I was stationed at Eielson AFB,
near Fairbanks. Eielson was just as cold as Indian Mountain –
maybe colder. And, at Eielson you had to go outside. I missed
Indian Mountain’s enclosed walkways. I had to work on the flight line,
catching F-4s. My only daughter was born at Fort Richardson, the Army
Base in Fairbanks.
I went from Eielson to another remote: Tuslog Det 187, Karatas, Turkey.
I was there from 5/76 through 3/77. I got a one month early out, since
I had been accepted to start college at University of South Florida in
Tampa. So, after 7 years and 11 months, my military career ended.
After graduating from college I went to work for IRS. I now have 32
years of Government service, and can retire whenever I want to. It’s
like “FIGMO,” sort of. We call it the “KMA” club. Whenever I want, I
can tell them to “KMA” (kiss my ass!).
I’ve lived in Brandon, a suburb of Tampa, since I left the military.
Today, the temperature will be in the 80’s. I don’t miss Alaska.
I’ve attached some pictures. If you look close at the one labeled
“WeatherClub2,” you can see a shirtless Barth posing next to the
weather shack. The guy standing in the foreground is one of the cooks.
1204 Londonwood St.
Brandon, FL 33510