Hoff's Aliner Travels
A Travel Blog for US and Canadian Parks with Geological Notes

Fort Greely, Alaska and the Army
After basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1968, my orders sent me to the Army Arctic Test Center in Alaska. I arrived in Fairbanks in January of 1969 – the temperature at the airport was lower than 50 degrees below zero. All I had was an Army field jacket which didn’t quite cut it.
From Fairbanks, I rode in an Army vehicle to Fort Greely near Delta Junction, Alaska. Fort Greely was created in the 50’s for testing Army equipment and training soldiers in cold environments. At the time I was there, the fort had about a 1,000 people; a nuclear reactor gave it power.
After a few months in Fort Greely, I was reassigned to the Gerstle River Test Site, which is 20,000 square acres about 20 miles east on the Alaska Highway. It is about three and a half miles off of the Alaskan Highway.
I spent 13 months living in a small collection of Quonset huts – the only buildings at the Gerstle River Test Site. There were usually 13 other guys (included 2 meteorologists and a cook) and 10 or more temporary duty soldiers during some periods. A diesel generator provided power and fuel oil potbelly stoves provided heat. We had our own small mess hall, a pool table, and a few movies a week. One of my main jobs during that time was to drive to Fort Greely during the week and pick up supplies, mail, and movies. Other months I put in fence line or did other stuff. While I was there, I drove a Suburban, a Bronco, an ambulance, a Deuce and a Half, an armored personnel carrier (APC M 113), and a lighter tracked vehicle (M 116). APC’s get about ½ mile to the gallon and go pretty much anywhere. They were useful in pulling 4wd vehicles out of snow and mud. We did manage to get an APC stuck in the melted permafrost once and got pulled out by a bulldozer.
During my time at Gerstle River, astronauts landed on the moon for the first time, The U.S. celebrated the first Earth Day, and people partied at Woodstock. On the down side during that time 13 people were shot at Kent State in Ohio, close to 100,000 people died from the Hong Kong Flu, and I got a Dear John from Georgia. Life goes on even when you are side tracked.
The Gerstle River Test Site has been the site of secret testing for chemical weapons (top secret at the time) but that information was made available to the public when the Army tried to give back the land to the Bureau of Land Management or the state of Alaska.
Blueberry Lake, artillery shells, and nerve gas


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