Saturday, December 31, 2011

UFOs & NUKES | "A Mobile 'Camper Team' Unit Reported UFO Activity Near a Launch Control Facility Designated Oscar-6"

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Standing up to the past

By Billy Cox
De Void
     As we close out another year and hope for the best in 2012, retired Air Force staff sergeant Bill Smith looks forward to resuming his teaching gig at one of Columbia (Mo.) College’s 34 nationwide campuses. Smith, an adjunct professor from Arlington, Tex., covers topics as diverse as ethics and philosophy, sociology and criminal justice. But his wide-angle interest is in social change, due in part to what he calls his “unique experience.”

Bill smith
On the early morning of October 24, 1968, following several weeks of watching strange lights maneuver across the night skies above a nuclear missile base in Minot, N.D., Smith got an expanded world view. A mobile “camper team” unit reported UFO activity near a launch control facility designated Oscar-6. Smith took a look for himself, saw the reported “large glowing object,” and phoned it in to security control with the 91st Strategic Missile Wing.

For the next hour or two, Smith and colleagues would watch the light — or lights — as it changed color, changed direction, and dipped behind a treeline. Exasperated over his superiors’ ostensible indifference to this blatant incursion into restricted air space, he tuned in with at least a small measure of relief to radio chatter from a B-52 crew, which confirmed the bogey from above as it made a joke of military security. No culprits were ever held to account, in a complicated case that would also involve trace effects of radiation, an unlocked inner perimeter gate, and a wide open — but unmanned — personnel hatch at an Oscar launch control center. Although Smith filed an AF-117 report, he was ordered never to discuss the incident outside the chain of command.

Not until years later, when he was shown a sequence of onboard radar photos captured by the B-52 as the UFO shadowed the bomber, did Smith fully appreciate the magnitude of the confirmational data. “I was in awe of it,” he says. In 2005, Smith and other former Minot colleagues would share their pieces of the eyewitness puzzle with Peter Jennings in ABC’s two-hour special, “The UFO Phenomenon: Seeing Is Believing.” And even then, a fuller picture of what happened was years away.

Last summer, in what was unquestionably the most ignored UFO development of the year, Minnesota researcher Tom Tulien produced a thoroughly stunning analysis of that event, as part of an ongoing Sign Oral History Project investigation. The story got no media, but the record remains accessible online for the benefit of those who insist there’s no UFO material worth studying.

Today, at age 70, instead of running from history, the way eyewitnesses often do, Bill Smith actually uses it as a classroom icebreaker. Inviting students to share significant personal experiences, Smith volunteers his Minot ‘68 moment, and refers them to online resources.

“I let them know I was questioned on Jennings about a UFO, and I usually get a lot of snickering at first,” Smith says. “But by the end of the class, they’re all very curious and they want to know more. And as a teacher, promoting critical thinking and getting students to keep an open mind is all I can ask for.”

Smith refuses to speculate about what he saw. “I’ve tried to be objective about it,” he says. “If anything, I guess you could say it was extremely humbling.”

So here’s to you in 2012, Mr. Smith. May your example inspire rigorous inquiry beyond the classroom, and may your students light many candles to guide us out of this long dark night.

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