SAGE Training

Waltham, Mass.

contributed by Homer N Willett LT Col Ret.

[From an email] In the later part of 1956 a group of officers and enlisted personnel were assigned to the Air Training Command (ATC) at Murphy Army Hospital complex in Waltham, Mass. for the purposes of training future operators for the up and coming SAGE system. Our initial exposure to a computer system was to attend in-house training at the Whirlwind I computer complex belonging to MIT on the campus at Cambridge, Mass. The PHD`s of MIT conducted training classes for the future instructors. On the job training was conducted at the Experimental SAGE System (ESS) facility at Hanscom AFB which was being managed by MIT and Western Electric Corporations. Their combined force was the forerunner to the MITRE Corporation.

The first classes of trainees were to be assigned to the New York Air Defense Sector. The duration of the courses was from 6 to 8 weeks.

During this same time frame another group of officers and enlisted personnel who were assigned to Air Research and Development Command (ARDC, later AFSC in the 6520 AC&W Sq (Experimental ) and even later redesignated 3245 AC&W Sq (Exper)), were conducting operational testing on the future SAGE operator consoles and operational software.

In 1958, an officer and several sergeants were assigned to Keesler AFB, Mississippi for the purposes of developing operator courses based on simulation type equipment`s. These equipment`s were developed by the above personnel with the assistance of IBM and Disney technicians. These courses (8 weeks duration) continued on into the early 1960`s. This effort was the first large scale effort in the USAF in using simulation to replace actual hardware.

The original courses conducted in Mass. were eventually transferred to Richards-Gebaur AFB in Grandview, Missouri, using actual equipment`s, and remained there until all the Air Defense Sectors became operational and they were capable of training there own personnel.

In addition to the above operator courses, new courses were developed to train SAGE maintenance personnel. With the aid of IBM personnel, a new building was erected and older equipment provided by IBM was installed in the building. The initial courses were taught by USAF personnel with IBM technicians supporting them.

I was orginally assigned to the training facility in Mass. then transferred to Keesler AFB as project officer for setting up the above SAGE courses.

Richards-Gebaur AFB, MO

Contributed by Rocky Dimare who writes: "I received this information from a retired Canadian Major who was actually involved in the formation of NORAD back in 1957 as a young enlisted guy."

I know of a couple of Old SAGE types now retired and living here. Both agree that indeed there was a SAGE course established at Richards-Gebaur AFB Kansas City, MO. One guy said they use to call it Dickey Goober AFB.

They held the first course they believe in the fall of 1959. One guy said that he was on the second course during June - Aug 1960 period. He was on the Manual Data Processing course, although he said that all of the other sections were being taught at the same time. I.E. Surveillance Weapons ID, etc.

The courses were of mixed nationally both Canadian and USAF types. Ron said that he thinks he still has his course graduation certificate and course picture.

I don`t think they know when the school was shut down. But I`m sure that it didn`t last too long as the Region centers probably started their own training facilities. Kansas City was to train the initial cadre for the new SAGE system. If you need anything else please let me know.

contributed by Robert C. Fortmuller

I was looking at your dissertation on the SAGE training given at Richards-Gebaur AFB, on the Radomes page, of which I am a member, and I had to give my two cents worth.

For what it`s worth, I and a number of personel from the AC&W radar sites in the old 31st ADIV were sent to that course for training to operate the Duluth Sage Sector, in Minn. There were approximately 60 of us, mostly SSgt`s, and we attended the school from July 59 to Oct 59. Each of us were assigned to one function which we would then perform at the Sage Sector. I recieved my training in Identification/Air Tactics. The official Course # was AZR-27370-3. After graduation we were redesignated as 27370-B (SAGE). This change was effective 1 Oct 59. If I remember correctly we passed our TAC/Eval and became operational in the summer of 1960. I believe that DUADS was the 2nd to become operational behind the McGuire ADS. I am looking at my old training record as I write this. Somewhere I have pictures.

Bob Fortmuller