18 March 2007

Why Nuclear Weapons are Fun

It’s -50º F outside and even the snowmen are shivering. The wind is blowing hard enough to viciously sting any small amount of skin you hazard to expose in order to see and breathe through the flying ice flakes. But the weather isn’t what’s on your mind right now. In fact, you couldn’t see the blizzard or hear the wind howling across the frozen tundra even if you wanted. No, you and your crew partner are stationed 60 feet underground behind two eight-ton blast doors in a nuclear hardened launch control center (LCC). There you sit, in a concrete capsule suspended from the ceiling by four mammoth shock isolators which are designed to help you survive a cold-war era “near miss” from an incoming enemy missile. For the next 24 hours the two of you will busy yourselves inspecting equipment, processing exercise messages from higher headquarters, troubleshooting faults, and monitoring the security and well-being of the 10-50 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) under your care and control.

Each ICBM in your arsenal is capable of carrying up to three thermonuclear warheads capable of inflicting terrible damage. Your mission is to defend the United States with safe, secure ICBMs ready to immediately put bombs on target. Day to day, this translates into working to maintain them in a constant state of readiness so as to deter any hostile forces who might hope to attack the United States or our allies and catch us unprepared to respond. However, should the need arise (heaven forbid) and you are issued the command to launch – you must be prepared in an instant to employ the most powerful weapon the U.S. has in its arsenal.

Understandably, the job comes with its share of stress. In order to alleviate some of this tension, allow me to suggest some harmless practical jokes you can play should you ever find yourself “pulling alert” in an LCC.

Frozen Footwear
When it is your crew partner’s turn for crew rest (to sleep), gather their socks together, wet them and squeeze out as much of the water as possible before tossing them in the freezer. Just before waking them, remove the now rigid items from the freezer and return them to the place you found them. As a warning, make sure to do this only after you have finished your own sleep shift. With enough forethought, you could even buy some absolutely ridiculous looking socks before alert and offer them in place of the frozen ones. If you don’t mind delayed gratification, you can also try a different twist. This time after gathering their socks, powder the insides with Kool-Aid flavoring. Since the socks are black and the powder doesn’t change color until wetted, it won’t be until after arriving at home that the unwary soul finds their feet have turned a bright shade of red… or green, or blue, or yellow…

Number Mix
This one’s always good for a cheap laugh. Switch around the numbers on the dial pad for the phone – nothing too obvious, but something simple like reversing the order. Your intended victim may notice the discrepancy right away, but will still fumble around a bit before dialing the right number or having to replace them to their original locations.

Exploding Snakes
Get some of those gag snakes that squish down rather flat and then “explode” out of their container when opened. These are endlessly entertaining and can be hid in places like the air regeneration unit, the emergency escape breathing apparatus container, or in that unobtrusive can marked “Chocolate Chip Cookies,” which you know will get opened while you are sleeping.

Moving LCC
This one is an urban legend among missileers (those who pull missile alert duty), but could be pulled off with the right kind of coordination. Invite someone new to the facility but not a missileer (such as a new security forces member) down to the LCC for a quick tour. After closing the blast door behind them and beginning the tour, have your crew partner initiate an alarm and printer test from at the console. This will set off a set of audible and visual alarms while printing out a test sheet on the printer. Express concern about the alarms and run to check the printout with your crew partner. Explain to the visitor that you have just received an urgent message from headquarters which must be delivered immediately to another capsule.

Next begin strapping into your chairs (which are equipped with a four-point restraining system to keep you from being bounced around too much following a nuclear detonation) and tell him or her to sit down and hold on to something. Tell them that the LCC is on rails and in emergencies like this can travel through an underground tunnel to reach other predetermined locations throughout the missile field. Next close your emergency water shutoff valve (ESOV) which will make a satisfyingly loud “whump” sound. This is the cue for the person you have secreted outside the capsule to start pushing on the capsule, causing it to rock slightly back and forth (remember it is suspended from the ceiling). After doing this for a short time and pretending to track your movement on the computer screen, open the ESOVs again. This will produce a loud “whoosh” somewhat akin to air brakes.

Finally, tell the visitor that since you are not allowed to leave the capsule while on duty (which is true); you need them to run the message back topside (ground level) and give it to the flight security controller. Unbeknownst to the victim, while he was “touring” the LCC, the personnel topside were busy switching places from the day to night personnel and moving enough around site (including vehicles) to make it look like a different location (the fact that the buildings are all the same and the landscape is all flat is very helpful for this ruse). If all goes according to plan, the wide-eyed messenger will deliver the printout topside, and may even ask if he can get someone to give him a ride back to his station.

Hopefully these hints will help to jumpstart your creative juices; and who knows, you might be the next one to come up with a prank that will enter the realm of urban legends among those who work with nuclear weapons.


Mary said...

hahahaha! Moving LCC. That is so great. Thanks for the laughs. Much needed. :-)

bekibug5 said...

ditto to what Mary said

lizbit said...

has anyone actually pulled off such a brilliant prank? If so, *applauds* That's hilarious!

jvjw said...

You crack me up!!!! Hysterically funny. Have you really fooled someone with this? We must know. Thanks for the laughter and smiles.


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