Nick, SSgt. Robert "Bob"

bob_nick_1967_410x378Hi, I am Bob Nick, and I was assigned to the 100th AMMS during 1967-1970, with two TDY’s to Det. 10 at Da Nang..  I could make this bio short and to the point about my time in the Air Force, but many people think my overall career after the Air Force is even more interesting, because of my work on such things as the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, SDI (star wars), and black programs doing reverse engineering of foreign military hardware. 

Some areas of my career I cannot discuss in much detail, as I would prefer not to be thrown into jail because of national security.  So here is my story:

I was born in California in 1948, and lived a number of places including central, northern, and southern California, and Montana during my school years.  After graduating from Bakersfield High School in 1966 I entered the Air Force.  At that time the draft lottery was just getting into full swing, and I did not want to be carrying a rifle in the jungle.  Due to my test scores I pretty much had my pick of career fields, and I chose to go into electronics

During basic training I was chosen for a highly classified career field, and, after having to stay in casual mode after basic, was shipped out to a special squadron at Lowry AFB (Denver, Colorado).  After finishing the basic electronics course the AF decided to scrub the particular school I was scheduled to attend, and a group of us were given choices of a number of other career fields.  I decided on Automatic Tracking Radar, so was then shipped to Keesler AFB (Biloxi, Mississippi).  That school was pretty neat because it was located off base, so we took a bus instead of marching to school like everyone else.

Automatic Tracking Radar is ground based systems that are used for Radar Bomb Scoring (RBS – later I found out that really stood for rakes, brooms, and shovels), so in that career field I would never be assigned to an Air Force Base and only see airplanes flying overhead.  All the troups from RBS were assigned to small self sustaining sites, mostly in the middle of nowhere.  At the end of the 40 week tech school a group of us received orders to a strange place, Davis Montham AFB, specifically to 100SRW, 100AMMS.  Nobody at the school had ever heard of this outfit, but now I was trained on the MSQ-35, one of the most  modern auto-track systems.

So we get to Davis Montham – there are no MSQ-35 systems for which I had just spent 40 weeks in tech school learning!  And there are these strange looking airplanes which they call DC-130’s with an autotrack radar system called the APW-23.  Oh, well, back to school at the local FTD.  What was all of this about never working on an airplane or being stationed at an AFB!    So we learned the Microwave Command Guidance System (MCGS) TPW-2 and APW-23.

Finally after almost two years in the AF I was finished with tech schools, and started actually working on systems.  Turns out that the whole MCGS was top heavy with retreads from other systems – E-7’s were carrying tool bags.  Of course us E-3s got to work on equipment once in a while, but, this being SAC, we spent a lot of time with paint brushes, mops, etc.

In August 68 I went on my first TDY to Det. 10, and stayed through January 69.  During that time the average day was two missions, with down time being quite rare – we did get Christmas day off in 68.  The MCGS crew had to be available on site from about an hour before the DC-130 took off from OL20 until the plane landed at Da Nang after the missions.   During the flight north the we would lock onto the drones the plane was carrying and perform remote checks, all under total radio silence.  There was no radio communications allowed for security reasons until after recovery.  During bad weather the MARS CH-3 choppers would fly out to find a hole in the clouds so we could mark it on the map and drop the drone through the hole during recovery. 

After my return from the first deployment I got married to my wife Karen in June 1969 (we are still married.)   Then I went on my second TDY to Det. 10 in January 1970.  The summer of 70 I left the USAF, intending to attend college and get my engineering degree, however I found the job situation terrible, and ended up having to scrap that idea and go to work elsewhere for a while as a TV transmitter engineer.  Finally in 1971 I decided to reenter the USAF as a retred, and went to Lowry AFB to cross train into F4C/D weapons control systems (radar, missile guidance, bombing computer, optical sight).  Upon finishing that tech school I was assigned to George AFB (Victorville, California)., but in the normal SNAFU, I was assigned to an F4E squadron, which was a completely  different WCS system (transistors vs tubes in the F4C/D).  So back to FTD to cross train again.  I finally got my promotion to E-5 and also  to 5-level just in time to get orders to Clark AFB, Philippines.  So I get to Clark, and sure enough, I am assigned to an F4D squadron, which is the training I got in tech school, but now here I am an E-5 3-level, and have to upgrade to 5 and then 7 level.  A little later after I finished my tour at Clark, I was transferred to Lowry AFB and assigned to trainer maintenance,  they formed a new career field that repaired and calibrated the test equipment for the F4 WCS on all models, and since I was one of the few qualified in that area, they changed my career field.   By this time I had 7 levels in three career fields, and was using them all, wearing a different hat depending on what was needed on any particular job. 

In 1978, after 11 years of active service I finally hung up my Air Force hat for good and ran my own two-way radio business for several years.

In 1980 I got a job as a field service engineer for a medical electronics company working with cardio-vascular equipment, fetal monitors, and real-time ultrasound monitors.  My main area of expertise was in Intra-aortic balloon pumps, and I worked in hospitals throughout the western US.  During this time I got to know Dr. William Devries, who later implanted the first artificial heart in Barney Clark.  In 1982 I went to work for Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, and worked on the development of the heart pump consoles which are still in use today in Tucson.  I also did research on Cochlear Implants, which today are pretty common for giving hearing back to totally deaf people.

In 1982 I finally started working on completing my engineering degree, and graduated in 1985.  Due to my vast previous electronics experience I had no problem finding a job in Florida, and quickly became a project engineer.  In 1987 I moved to Huntsville, Alabama and became project engineer for a large SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) project, BSTS (Boost Surveillance and Tracking Satellite) data processing system, where I had a staff of around 80 hardware and software engineers.  At the end of that project I moved on to another company to do a job which became really interesting.

I have to be somewhat sketchy about the next 7 years for security reasons.  I held one of those really high clearances, and worked as a contractor for a number of unnamed government intel agencies.  My specialty was air defense command and control systems.  I was able to work with a number of Russian air defense systems, including SA-2, SA-5, SA-6, and SA-10, reverse engineering the command and control systems, especially the computers.  I also got to tear apart and reverse engineer the auto-pilot of a SA-5 anti-aircraft missile.  Due to my design experience I also created special interfaces to the different types of foreign equipment.  I was also project engineer on a number of special tests run at places like White Sands with multiple radar systems, fast mover aircraft (F-16), and missile systems.  I also made a lot of trips out to unmentionable places in Nevada.

In 1997 I finally decided to leave my engineering career and devote full time to my WEB business, and that is what I am still doing these days.  My daily commute is past the coffee pot to my office at the other end of the house, where I control 18 WEB servers via my computer.

Robert (Bob) Nick