Photo: Alan Graham 1958
COMMO / RANGE OPERATIONS HILL
That is the Commo Shack on top of the hill. Also up there but unseen in this photo is the Range Operations building. Range Ops was the nerve center for the range during Nike firings. It took a lot of coordination to launch missiles. White Sands Proving Ground had to first authorize "Green Time," a period of time when all aircraft and surface traffic were restricted from the area and we were cleared to fire missiles. Oscura Range Camp to the south was home to The RCAT Battery which launched and controlled flight of the RCAT drones we used as targets. They had to get drones into the air in a timely manner and keep them there until we were fired out. The Fire Department and Medics and Military Police all had tasks to perform during launches. In addition, a group of civilians would probably be up there to view the exciting launch as well as the two RCATS on display you saw in an earlier photo. A tour guide would be with the VIPs, explaining what was going on and what to expect next. A tall flagpole was there from which flew a long slender red flag, a sign that the range was "Hot" and launch was imminent. The Hot Range flag was visible all over the down range area. Roadblocks had to be established to stop vehicles from accidentally wandering into a launch area or Booster Alley, where the spent boosters would impact. The narrow gravel road up the hill was dangerous in good weather, treacherous in winter when it iced over. It was used every single day of the camp's existence because the Commo Switch was manned 24/7.