Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gear and Equipment

Below are some items of gear and equipment that many of us wore or used. Some of our gear was optional, such as Kevlar® vests, speed loaders, and speed strips.

Utility belt
Below is a picture of a utility belt worn by SPs (it is in the process of having a high gloss black lacquer applied to it). The belt was kept in place by about three belt stays that looped through your trouser's belt. There was a holder for a flashlight, two pouches for six rounds of .38 ball ammo, a pouch for handcuffs, and a holster.

Some SPs used either speed loaders (later banned) or speed strips. The speed strips fit into a regulation ammo pouch, but allowed one to reload with two rounds per insertion. Other optional gear included a "high rise" holster, and oversized grips for the S&W .38 revolver.

Utility belt with standard holster, "high rise" holster, flashlight holder, belt stays, ammo pouch, and handcuff pouch ~ 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

SpeedGun® Doppler Radar
For those of us who were real "go getters", we loved running radar using the SpeedGun®. The SpeedGun® had to be calibrated before use, and tuning forks were used for that purpose. One could also "clock" the fan in the vehicle and get a reading of about 120 MPH. We were cautioned to never try and clock an incoming jet, as the jet's radar would "fry" our small unit.

During tech school at Lackland, we were instructed on how to use it, along with the older VASCAR™ system. VASCAR™ cost about $2,000, but was essentially a calculator, stop watch, and an odometer combined into a single unit.

SpeedGun® Doppler Radar for speed detection ~ 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

Kevlar® vest
Kevlar® vests were introduced in the mid 1970s, and many of us SPs at Maxwell AFB and Gunter AFS station purchased them out of our own funds. This was especially true after the line of duty murder of TSgt Tom Campbell in March 1978. The vest pictured below had front and back panels that were hermetically sealed. The panels were inserted into a cloth jacket which had Velcro® straps. It was hot, but could be a life saver.

Kevlar® bullet resistant vest with front and back panels (but no side panels) - 1978
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

Typewriters, NCIC Terminals, and Alarms
Pictured below is the Desk Sergeant's office at Maxwell AFB (with A1C Jim Potter). The typewriter was electric, and you had to fill out the SP Desk Blotter in triplicate via good old carbon paper (Note: Carbon paper was used to make "carbon copies", thus the "CC" you have in e-mail). If you made a mistake, then you had to erase, manually, all three copies!

The alarm panel was electronic, and may have had micro-processors, but was probably a fully analog system. An alarm activation resulted in the issuing of a "10-31" for the building affected, and usually the closing of the base.

The NCIC "dumb" terminal was used to make inquiries for wanted persons and stolen vehicles. Only a SSgt or above was allowed to input BOLOs (Be On the Look Out) into the system, and we were cautioned to not make ad hoc inquiries just to see what we got back. During training, I was allowed to run my own name ("James P. Brown"),and since it was so common, the NCIC terminal "lit up like a Christmas tree", churning out many pages of dot-matrix print.

Desk Sergeant's office, Maxwell AFB ~ 1978
A1C Jim Potter
(photo by Philip "J.P." Brown)

SP Desk Blotter (sample) - 1975
(USAF SP Handbook, scanned by Philip "J.P." Brown)

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