|Joseph A Gleason|
|Pan Am's GMRD was prime
contractor to the US Air Force for operations and maintenance of the
Atlantic Missile Range (re-designated the Eastern Test Range) but
commonly called Cape Canaveral. During the interview, Pan Am made
me an offer.
I spent the first 3 months attending an Operations school learning about missiles, launches, complexes, etc and was then assigned to one of the Air Force's 8 missile tracking ships as Ship Operations Manager; a task whose responsibilities included total ship performance except for direction of the maritime crew.
I supported this task for 14 months then requested a new assignment at Cape Canaveral because I wanted to get married. I had convinced JoAn through the use of guile, negotiation, and a promise to change to marry me. This decision turned out to be the best judgment call of my entire career. JoAn and I had met while I was in college and had gotten along extremely well although as I look back I am sure she was under divine guidance. Our family now consists of 4 children, 8 grandchildren and, as of this writing, 43 years of happiness.
At Canaveral, I was given the job of Superintendent of Range Operations responsible for the launch, radar and telemetry tracking/ command and control of various rockets including Polaris, Minuteman, Atlas/Agena, Atlas/Centaur/ Titan/ Titan/Centaur, Delta and Saturn. This period marked the earnest beginnings of our Nation's foray into the missile business and each week had a new R & D missile, communications satellite, space probe or spacecraft being launched, sometimes 2 a day. It was a highly charged environment that made going to work each day very easy and very satisfying. All totaled, I counted down and launched over 100 missiles from the ETR's Range Control Center.
Then the Saturn S/Apollo Program came on the scene. KSC, NASA's spaceport, was being developed west of Canaveral, across the Banana River to perform these launches but was not yet ready, so Cape Canaveral was responsible for all aspects of the early Apollo launches. I was appointed the responsibility for the launches of that program for the Eastern Test Range and did so from the launch of Apollo 1 through the launch of Apollo 13.
After the safe return of the damaged Apollo 13 spacecraft/ the Government began to reduce NASA's and the Air Force's space launch budgets with the result that people on both sides of the Banana River began to be reduced-in-force (RlFd). These were extremely difficult times for all Cape Canaveral/ Patrick AFB and Kennedy Space Center employees. I watched many capable/ talented people lose their jobs and move away during these troubled times. I continued to work although the launch schedule and missile business was much reduced and an air of job uncertainty permeated the entire Central Florida region; especially in the Cape Canaveral area.
Once again fate intervened. I was sitting at home one Saturday afternoon watching the baseball game on television when the phone rang. The call was, purportedly, from a personnel rep of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California offering me an interview for a job on the Mariner Mars 1971 program. Being a suspicious type I thought it was local friends trying to have a good laugh at my expense, so I informed the caller to send me a telegram confirming his story or I would ignore the call. Three hours later, a telegram arrived at my front door.