Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Bob's History

bob.png Since this is intended to brief my classmates on how I spent my time after graduation, I will start with that period.

After graduation, I spent the month of July traveling to Mexico with my parents. It was something they wanted to do and I wanted to spend that time with them. I am glad I did. But throughout the trip I kept thinking of the girl I left behind in C-Springs. I had told her that I didn't want to marry until after I got my AF career started. But I finally gave in and proposed just before leaving for UPT at Laughlin AFB. That turned out to be a big mistake – the girl. She was immature and not ready for marriage. Between the personal difficulties with her and dealing with air-sickness, I am sorry to say I failed to complete pilot training.

My next assignment was as an aircraft controller. I was at Tyndall, AFB for that time. This was a great assignment. I remember they had nickel beer, a dozen oysters for a buck and poker in the back room of the O – Club on Friday nights. We controlled aircraft on intercept training missions over the Gulf. I had an opportunity to operate the Q-bee drone we used for live firings. It was radio controlled and we ‘flew' it by watching a pen track on a map. But I was treading water with my career and decided to apply for duty in Viet-Nam. That was in mid 1965 and the big build-up had not started yet. At that time, they did not have an assignment for me. A week later they called and asked if I were interested in missile duty, which would allow me to study for a Masters degree while on duty. I accepted the assignment. Oh, BTW, before leaving for training, I married that same girl I just mentioned.

After training at Chanute and Vandenburg I was assigned to Malmstrom AFB, MT (SAC). The duty involved standing alert with ten Minuteman I missiles. Not real exciting duty, but it did give me the opportunity to work on a Masters degree. You may have heard of my incident while at Malmstrom. I will present a brief synopsis here. I would not BS you guys about this, so needless to say this is the truth as I remember it.

On March 24, 1967 I was on duty at the Oscar Flight (Launch Control Center), located near Roy, MT. There were just two of us in the underground capsule which held all the equipment needed to monitor and launch missiles. We had 4-6 security guards topside. Col.(ret.) Fred Meiwald was my commander and I was the deputy. I received a call sometime in the evening hours from my main guard that he and the others had been watching some strange lights overhead. He said these lights were not aircraft because they were going exceptionally fast and making very unusual maneuvers (i.e. sharp 90 degree turns) and were completely silent. I even joked that he may be looking at UFOs.

I discounted the call and went back to the book I was reading. A few minutes later, he called back. This time he was screaming into the phone, obviously frightened. He said that he was looking at an oval shaped object, surrounded by red-pulsating light and it was hovering just above our front gate. He had all the guards out there with their weapons drawn. He asked me for direction. I told him to make sure nothing entered the facility. He hung up and I went to tell Meiwald about the calls.

Before I could say much, our missiles started falling off alert status and into NO-GO status. All ten of our missiles fell off alert within seconds. We reported this to the command post at Malmstrom and they told Meiwald that the same thing had happened before. I later found out that Echo flight of ten missiles had also gone NO-GO under similar circumstances about a week prior to my shutdowns.

After we were relieved the next morning, we were ordered to report to the squadron commander's office. During that meeting we were told that our incident was now classified and we were not to speak about it to anyone. AFOSI was present and had us sign non-disclosure statements. I was stationed at Malmstrom for another two years as a missile launch officer and, in that time, I heard nothing more about our incident. In my three years at Malmstrom, it was rare for any missile to go into NO-GO status for any reason, much less ten within seconds.

In 1969 I was re-assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB to finish up my Masters degree at AFIT. By then I had divorced. However, I met and married my wife, Marilyn at Wright-Pat. We are still married and have been for 41 years.

My next assignment was working as in the propulsion section of the Titan III SPO at LAAFS. My duty there was in support of the propulsion engineering contract USAF had with Aerojet General, in coordination with Aerospace Corp.

Although I loved serving in USAF, In 1971 I resigned my commission and became a civilian. It was a difficult decision. I returned to Colorado with my wife and new daughter, Andrea. I had a friend who helped me get a job at Martin-Marietta. MM was involved in Space Shuttle proposals and I worked in the Reliability and Safety section. About a year later I did the same work at Rockwell-International in L.A. In 1974 I accepted a job with FAA in aircraft certification. I worked for FAA for some 22 years as an aircraft certification (structures) engineer in the Western-Pacific Region. This involved reviewing aircraft structural designs for the ‘heavies' as well as small aircraft.

In 1977 my son Rob was born.

I retired from FAA in the fall of 1995. Just before ‘retiring' I had decided to go into teaching so I started a teacher certification program at the University of Washington. I became a high school math and physics teacher in 1998 and taught full time for about 8 years. Then I ‘retired' again. That didn't last long so I continued to do substitute teaching and tutoring students in math. I recently was hired as a science teacher by a private school in Ojai, CA where I currently live. I am still tutoring students in my home.

Oh, yes, to continue my UFO story – In 1994 I was in a bookstore and picked up a book called “Above Top Secret”, by Timothy Good. I was browsing through the book when I happened to run across a paragraph that told of a UFO incident at Malmstrom AFB in 1967. The incident described in the book was very close to what I remembered of my incident. I thought it must have been my incident and that it had been declassified in order for it to be published in the book. At that time, I did not recall that another flight had also gone down a week before ours.

I contacted an investigator from Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and asked him to file a Freedom of Information request to USAF about the Echo Flight shutdown. I told him not to mention anything about UFOs in his request. AF wrote back to him and said the incident had been classified but since so much time had passed and in compliance with FOIA, they decided to declassify the incident. Again, at that time, I thought that had been my own incident and now, it was officially declassified. I then started going public about the Echo flight shutdown with the added information about the UFO sightings. In 1996, I finally located my commander, Fred Meiwald and then realized I was not at Echo but at Oscar flight. It was then I recalled his statement during the incident that the same thing had happened before (Echo Flight). Since my incident was so similar to the Echo incident, and the significance of these incidents, I decided to continue speaking publicly about it.

I later contacted the Echo flight crew of Eric Carlson and Col. ( ret.) Walt Figel. These witnesses, including Meiwald and others have agreed to the release of their information and concurred with the basic facts of this story. There are many other details which can be found in the book I co-authored, Faded Giant, and on my website

I continue to speak publicly about this incident. The continuing official Air Force policy on the subject states that no UFO related incident has ever impacted ‘national security'. Because of my experience, I have a different understanding and, in my estimation, a responsibility to inform the public. I have always considered the time I spent at USAFA the most important and valuable experience I have received in my lifetime. I am proud and honored to be a member of the Class of 64 and that will never change.

Robert Salas March 2011
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