We left Morton at 0200 Monday morning. At one point I thought Lorrie and Ching Lee were going to back out of going. Saying goodbye to Sara and Takeo was hard on them and us. This was the first time they would be away this long.
Over the last few weeks they had both pumped enough breast milk ahead for ten days. Lisa, Jason, Mom and Dad were staying at our house to care for RJ, JJ, Sara and Takeo. Mindy was going to stop by to keep them company with her twins.
Saying goodbye to JJ and RJ was tough on all of us; we were going to miss them as well. But they had other things on their mind.
JJ and RJ were excited they were going to spend their days with Grandpa and Pop-Pop. Fishing and crabbing trips were planned along with exploring. Then they were going to look at some new farm machinery at the county fair and also there was the new boat Jason wanted to buy. The list went on and on to keep the little boys busy.
I wondered who was going to give out first – the old fogies or the young guns. I was betting on the old fogies as those two boys were solid balls of energy.
Dad and Jason quickly accepted that they would be accompanied by security when the boys were away from the house with them.
It was 1300 when we stepped out of customs without problems this time. The changes had already been made in the Portugal system. All we had to do was show our US passport and JBG ID badge and we went straight through.
There were plenty of Suburbans for us to get around in. The last two flights to Turkey had dropped off sixteen of them along with tons of other freight for the new training center. The early deliveries had been stored in the hangar at Lisbon International.
Most of it had made the move to the new complex. A lot of it was electronics for the command and communications centers that we had to build at the Pact countries. Two of Roberts’s men had been here almost from the beginning making sure the right cables were pulled to the right places.
It had taken two days to get the big satellite dishes updated and operating. The control linkages were frozen and the motors stuck but persistence had paid off. I was told the command center was close to being fully operational.
That was good news; I was getting leery of using the embassy for so much JBG business. No one had said anything yet but with all the rumored subpoenas I did not want to give Congress anything else to go looking at.
We had to buy space off one of the big communications satellites owned by a telecom giant for the time being. But that was soon going to end – there was a sixty day limit on the contract.
The DOD – in partnership with the CIA and DHS – was launching a new satellite to be stationed over the central mid-Atlantic. It was to aid DOD and other communications between Europe, Africa and the US.
It took some doing but I had bought a communications POD on the satellite for JBG use. I could never find out why they called it a pod. The satellite was one of those that stayed over the same location. It promised instantaneous communication with little or no ping time.
A twenty foot dish was being installed behind the 1001 Summers Lane corporate office to complete the loop. We would still use the CIA dish at Morton and the local cable at office until then.
The local cable was getting unreliable and slow. Robert had done some checking on them. The cable company had far more customers in the area than their equipment and cable was capable of handling with all the new demands place on the internet. To make matters worse, there were no plans to upgrade the local cable.
What they weren’t saying was that they were expecting the new 5G wireless systems to have a big impact on the cable business and were no longer willing to commit the money to rural and small market areas.
With those three we should never lose our ability to communicate anywhere anytime.
We rode from Lisbon International to Loures. It was twelve miles and twenty five minutes from the international airport. When we turned off the road into the drive we had to wait in line to go through the security gate.
Biff was using all the contractors to get all the security people up to speed looking at the people and vehicle checks – more of the OJT ‘on the job training’ so to speak. There were cameras mounted on the archway to look down into the back of dump trucks. There were two more to look at each side of the trucks.
I don’t know if I would have started this level of security at such an early stage in the process, but I was not going to criticize at this point.
Biff met us in the parking area by the command center. “Great to see you again. I am surprised to see all of you. You are just in time to watch the final test on the VCATS and MTAC systems. Rich and Horace say they have all the bugs worked out and are ready to go.”
“The cafeteria is up and running, hot coffee – the way you like it – is in the pot,” Biff said.
I should have known food and coffee were the first order of business for working men and that the cafeteria would be at the top of the list.
With hot cups of coffee we made our way to the command center. It was the original command center used by the Portuguese military with new equipment. Updating it to new equipment that was only beginning to make an appearance when the building was last in use must have been a daunting task for Rich and Horace.
The contractors had done an excellent job. There was big screen similar to the one at the office. The theater seating had been built on a very solid wooden platform and had top of the line executive seating with work space if needed.
Like the home office the big screen was surrounded by smaller flat screens. These were labeled for the Pact countries and would be active as control centers were established in those countries. There was a lot of negotiating left to do before all this could be active.
We took our seats and I instructed Rich to page Robert. Only seconds passed when the screen went live to the office. I asked Robert about the security of the transmission. I wondered if the link could be intercepted with another dish nearby.
“Very unlikely, unless they steal the code that is used in the first millisecond of the transmission. The feed is encrypted and then scrambled. A new encryption and code is used each time a call is opened on the senders end. The receiving end has to search through the originating coded sequence to determine the right codes to complete the conversation and it uses that until the call is terminated. That is the system that will be used in the Pact countries,” Robert said.
“What about other sites such as embassies, the State Department and the White House?” I asked.
“If it does not receive a code in the reply ping the system drops to the standard system. The system here will be upgraded as soon as the new dish is operational,” Robert replied.
I spent a few minutes getting updates from Robert including that General Kedar had confirmed his schedule for the first of next week.
Then Cindy joined the conversation, “There was a folder delivered here by courier for you from General Ingram.”
“Scan it and attach it to an email, use my JBG email,” I replied.
With that conversation over I entered the numbers to page Ben for an update on the evidence collected at Harrisburg. When he and I went through it last week there were a couple of items I wanted to know more about.
“Looks like you have remodeled the command center,” Ben said.
“A new command center – we are in our Portugal headquarters checking on the progress of the renovations. Have you made progress on the book yet?” I asked.
One was an unusual looking book written in Persian and English. What caught my eye was the layout of the print. I was willing to bet it was a code book to decipher code phrases used by most US forces on radio dispatches. Of course it could have been for their own conversations if they thought they were being monitored. Ben was having it translated and unencrypted if necessary. As usual they still were not done.
A few minutes later I opened my email on the big screen. The file General Ingram had sent was a list of military surplus equipment that was going on the restricted access online auction site. JBG could buy it before the sale but had to pay the average price that like equipment sold for plus ten percent and all the standard auction fees.
We girls went through the list picking out what we thought we needed for South Africa and Portugal.
Biff then walked us through the buildings. There were six individual homes there were intended to be for the senior officers and their families as living quarters.
We would use two of them for the same thing and then reserve the other four for visiting VIPs.
The helicopter hangars were still in good shape and dry. The exposed concrete landing pads were being replaced. Exposure to the elements had resulted cracking, chipping and flaking – a big no- no with aviation, especially helicopters. The contractor was finishing the demolition process today.
We deliberated on the best fuel policy and decided to upgrade the fuel tanks to stainless and a new filtering system IF we could find a jet A fuel supplier. If not, we would have to buy a fuel truck and run it back and forth to the airport to pick up a load of fuel.
It would not make sense to fly the helicopters to the airport for fuel and have to deal with air traffic control and delays all the time.
The last things we looked at had been the general living areas for enlisted men. I expected to see big rooms full of bunk beds US style. Instead there were three story brick and stone dormitory style housing.
Each room was set up with two beds, a small living area with mini kitchen with a sink and small refrigerator and a small bathroom with a flush and a sink. There were two large general showers and large bathrooms on each floor plus a laundry room.
Each floor had ten rooms for a total of twenty men to the floor and sixty men to the building with a total of seven barracks.
With so many different contractors on site I asked Biff why.
“They have crazy construction rules here worse than unionized contractors at home. There is no such thing as a general contractor that has people who can do it all. Demolition men do nothing but tear out, remove or tear down.
“Window installers do nothing but install windows. If the frame needs work a carpenter has to do it. Window installers or carpenters cannot repair drywall after the window installation. The drywall guys have to finish it then the trim guys have to finish it. If a plumber needs a hole drilled the carpenter has to drill the hole and sign off on it, same with an electrician – he cannot drill a hole in lumber.”
“A brick layer cannot remove old brick; the demo guys have to do it, a plumber cannot remove a sink to install new pipes; the demo guys have to remove it. The plumber can reinstall it. It goes on and on. But we are getting there.
“I have an inspector looking at every building and every room making lists and scheduling the contractors in the order they are needed. They might think they were generating a bunch of free time but he has ended that,” Biff said.
“I knew you could handle the job. We are going to be bouncing in and out for the next ten days. We have to visit all the Pact countries then Marcy, Vicky and I are going to South Africa,” I said.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.