Photo: Alan Graham 1958


Perched high atop Range Operations Hill, the tiny Commo Shack was one of the busiest buildings in the camp. Every telephone call into and out of the camp passed through the manual switchboard inside. When you picked up a phone in the camp to call Fort Bliss, for example, the "Switch" operator would greet you with a friendly "Red Canyon Switch" and ask what number you wished to call. He would then manually patch your phone to one of the trunk lines to either Fort Bliss or White Sands Proving Ground, dial your number and push a switch forward which rang the phone at the other end.

The Commo (Communications) Shack was manned 24/7 and could get extremely busy during launch operations when several agencies required coordination for the launch. It was also in a dangerous location on top of the hill. The building was sheathed with metal to prevent Radio Frequency Interference (RFI). Violent thunderstorms often raked the area and the copper coated Commo Shack was a prime target for lightning strikes.

Commo man Don Bogges recalls one such incident: "I was on duty in the shack one stormy night, answering calls as usual, when the building lit up like daytime. The switch turned into a Christmas tree and the noise from my headset almost blew my ears off! I flung the headset away and jumped out of my chair thinking "What the hell is going on?' The fire department arrived within a few minutes and asked if I was hurt. I couldn't hear very well but said I was okay. The firemen said that was the biggest damned lightning strike they had ever seen. They expected to find me dead! Lightning rods were installed on the shack before the week was over." Don Bogges