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Glenn B. Wheaton
2006-Dec-26 Tue, 00:47
Aloha All,

And Merry Christmas from all of us at Hrvg. It just seems that time is rushing by so fast. It is late Christmas night here and I finally have time to take care of some of the admin tasks and clear the email. I have been trying to get some MP3 files out to friends from a Christmas many years ago. It was 1974 and the height of the Cold War. It was Christmas day in Augsburg West Germany and at our Surveillance Site at Gablingen myself and over a thousand other young soldiers manned the racks of equipment used to monitor the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. One of the things they don't tell you when they recruit you for the intelligence agencies is that you give up any hope of a Holiday. Intel doesn't take Holidays.

Most of us sat at little module positions with an array of radio receivers and teleprinters we used to search for and copy transmissions from the other side of the Iron Curtain. There was always an extra receiver where we could tune up and mix into our audio feeds some background music to listen to and most listened to either Radio Luxembourg or the Armed Forces Network feeds from Stuttgart or Berlin. On this Christmas day I listened to the Berlin feed of the AFN and for hours between the Polish, Czechoslovakian, and Hungarian targets I was working, I listened to the broadcast of an excellent Christmas program. It was a Joint broadcast from the American, French, English and Canadian forces in Berlin. It was excellent music and Christmas messages to the World from the Island of Freedom deep within Communist East Germany.

A young Army Security Agency Lieutenant made tape recordings of the Christmas day transmissions and now 32 years later has sent them around the world to all of us who were there. How much do you remember of the past? I listened for hours to the recordings and marveled at how it made me feel to revisit the Christmas of 1974. I remember the huge collection bay with its decorations and endless racks of equipment. The smell of the huge coffee maker on the table near my position, and on the table all the baked cakes and treats made by all the wives spending Christmas day in Government quarters alone while we spun the dials and searched for any sign the Soviets were on the move. I remember the face of the young woman whose position was to my left. Her name was Joann Donahue and she was just 18. To my right was young Tim Keene and on the other side of him was Kelly and beyond him Manley, then Mary Bowman, Judy Rhinehart, Dave Bowman, Connie Nunely, Jack Renfro, Jan Novak, Ron Moats, Rhonda Mann. There are more to remember,

In between copying transmissions from the other side of the Iron Curtain we all managed to open small gifts from the table and eat the goodies made by the wives while we listened to the Christmas music in Berlin. I remember the smiles on the faces of each as for a moment they got their time at the table to open a gift and share in this small celebration. It was the best we could do and besides being humble it was honest caring and camaraderie amongst a group of teenagers very lonely and very far from home.

In January my daughter heads to Afghanistan to serve in one of the most desolate places on earth. I am glad that this year she can spend her Christmas at home but as I write this I know the young troops where she is heading are celebrating Christmas as best they can. I will tell you that for this day it is an extraordinary Christmas, one that they will remember for the years to come. It will be simple because they do not have much, honest because of the trust they place in one another, and these young people will neither grumble, nor complain. They will laugh and smile and trade little gifts with meaning and listen to Christmas music on the Armed Force Network. I hope someone records it for them.

Merry Christmas

Glenn