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Brief Encounter with ARIA

Doug Wetzel

I was a young buck sergeant, stationed at Buckley ANGB, Colorado, in 1970. I had one brief encounter with ARIA that ended up changing my life.

We had a lot of different types of transient aircraft going in and out of Buckley in that era. As a ground radio maintenance tech, I got to see most of them from our transmitter site close to the control tower and transient parking area. One afternoon, a very strange visitor with the distinctive bulbous nose showed up and parked not a hundred yards from us. As a space enthusiast almost from the day Sputnik was launched, I was very excited because I knew this was one of the famous ARIA airplanes.

Feeling that I had nothing to lose, I walked across the road, onto the parking ramp, and approached the crew, who were deplaning, and shamelessly asked for a tour. The stars aligned, the gods were friendly, and I found myself being shown around what I considered to be the sexiest machine flying. The tour ended all too soon, and with many thanks, I returned to ground radio duties.

Not long after that, there was a shortage personnel call for AFSC 308X0, space systems command and control. I hot footed it to CBPO, filled out my papers, and eventually made it into training for that field.

Unfortunately, the assignments I got were not to put me into the really cool part of the field, as I eventually ended up in ground satellite terminal maintenance. However, I did actually cross paths again with another ARIA veteran. I was eventually stationed at Shemya AFS and had several friends who worked with and on Cobra Ball 2664.

To this day I have a soft spot for the ARIA guys who got me started on this career path. I eventually got a degree in electrical engineering, and am now working on the new Boeing KC-46A tanker. One of my tasks is writing tests for the mission satcom systems.

Thanks guys! Great job.

Doug Wetzel