The Story behind the 2017 SOTR Jersey Design
This year’s design is very unique because we stumbled across an old Air Force Patch for the 649th Radar Squadron that was assigned to the radar tower on top of Apple Orchard Mountain (Bedford Air Force Station) — here is a story found on the internet about that squadron:
649 Radar Squadron
649th RADAR SQUADRON
Activated as 649th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, Nov 1954
Redesignated 649th Radar Squadron (SAGE), 1 Apr 1959
Bedford AFS, VA, Nov 1954 (2 Dec 1954)
Washington Air Defense Sector
Maj Howard C. Sharkey, #Mar 1955
Maj James M. Wood, Jr.
Maj Howard K. Grizzle
Maj C. Krupski, #1960
Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers
On 1 Jul 1958, the squadron became part of the Washington Air Defense Sector
The advent of heavy commercial jet traffic added an additional responsibility on 21 Dec 1959
as a joint use site for the Federal Aviation Agency
Located atop Apple Orchard Mountain, elevation 4,224 feet, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the first
officers and airmen arrived at the 649th AC&W Squadron, Bedford, Virginia, on 2 December
Originally composed of three officers and 19 airmen under the command of Captain Richard
Solomon, the squadron was under the jurisdiction of the 4710th ADW and the 26th Air Division.
Now under the jurisdiction of the 85th Air Division (Defense), the squadron is commanded by
Major Howard C. Sharkey and is composed of 14 officers and 150 airmen.
The 649th Aircraft Control and Warning1 Squadron was organized and activated 26 May 1953 at
Roslyn, New York. In November 1954, the squadron moved to its present location atop Apple
Orchard Mountain, one of the highest peaks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The two officers and 19
Airmen were charged with developing a radar link for the protection of the Washington, D. C. and
Through a succession of commanders—Majors Howard C. Sharkey, James M. Wood, Jr., and
Howard K. Grizzle—the squadron compliment increased in number, roads were paved and
permanent buildings constructed. In the six months period after May 1958, a new artic tower to
house the FPS-20 and a transmitter building were constructed. Major Charles A. Krupski took
command in October 1958, and construction was started on a communications received site, and a
multi-purpose recreation building to house a snack bar, gymnasium, library, and lounge.
On 1 July 1958, the 649th AC&W Squadron became a part of the Washington Air Defense Sector.
The rapid development of a better air defense system, Semi-Automatic Ground Environment,
caused the change of the squadron’s mission and title on 1 April 1959. Now the 649th RADAR
SQUADRON (SAGE). The advent of heavy commercial jet traffic added an additional
responsibility on 21 December 1959, as a joint-use site for the Federal Aviation Agency.
DISCUSSES IN DETAIL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH SITE M-121, BEDFORD VA (SITING AND ATMOSPHERICS), OPERATED BY 649 AIRCRAFT CONTROL AND WARNING SQUADRON. 1955
649TH AC&W SQ.
BEDFORD AIR FORCE STATION
Located atop Apple Orchard Mountain, elevation 4,224 feet, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the first officers and airmen arrived at the 649th AC&W Squadron, Bedford, Virginia, on 2 December 1954.
Originally composed of three officers and 19 airmen under the command of Captain Richard Solomon, the squadron was under the jurisdiction of the 4710th ADW and the 26th Air Division. Now under the jurisdiction of the 85th Air Division (Defense), the squadron is commanded by Major Howard C. Sharkey and is composed of 14 officers and 150 airmen.
At the present there is no government housing available for married personnel. The town of Bedford, Virginia, offers ample furnished apartments of 2 and 3 rooms for personnel not having children. For personnel with children, there are a number of 4 room unfurnished apartments.
Single airmen living on the base are housed in semipermanent type Quonset huts. The barracks are divided into two bays, each housing from 12 to 16 men. The NCO barracks has two man rooms.
The squadron sports program consists of activities on the base as well as intra-division competition in all sports except football. Off base, Bedford offers personnel of this squadron the facilities of a nine hole golf course located at the Bedford Country Club. Personnel of the squadron are eligible to join the Country Club which has party facilities and features a recently constructed swimming pool.
To supplement the base library, the town library is available to all personnel. It is primarily a recreational library and contains very few professional reference books, but the librarian can and will obtain any book or reference material from the Virginia State Library.
Bedford Air Force Station is located approximately 20 miles from Natural Bridge, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Personnel may avail themselves of the year-round indoor swimming pool maintained at Natural Bridge.
Summer off-duty time is spent by the personnel of this squadron at nearby Bedford County Lake, the many beaches located just a few hours driving time away or in the cities of Lynchburg (50,000), 28 miles to the east, and Roanoke (141,000), 30 miles to the west of the station
649th Radar Sq (SAGE): activated 26 May 53 at Roslyn, NY, assigned to the 26th AD; site redesignated Roslyn AFS, NY
1 Dec 53; transferred to the 4710th Def WgMay 54; moved to Bedford, VA by Dec 54; transferred to the 85th AD 1 Mar 56; transferred to Washington ADS 1 Sep 58; redesignated from AC&W Sq to 649th Radar Sq (SAGE) 1 Oct 59; transferred to 33rd AD 1 Apr 66; reassigned to the 20th AD 19. Nov 69; re¬designated 649 Radar Sq 1 Feb 74; inactivated 30 Jun 75.
M-121/Z-121 – Bedford
The 649th AC&W Squadron achieved beneficial occupancy at this Phase I Mobile Radar site in late 1954. Operational status was achieved in 1956 with the activation of the AN/MPS-8 and AN/MPS-11 radars. By 1958 the AN/MPS-8 had been superseded by a pair ofAN/FPS-6 height-finder radars. In 1959 an AN/FPS-20A search radar replaced the AN/MPS-11 set and Bedford joined the SAGE system. In 1960 this site also began performing air traffic control duties for the FAA. In 1963 the search radar was upgraded and redesignated as an AN/FPS-67. The 649th was deactivated in June 1975.
Air Force Order of Battle
Created: 20 Jul 2011
Unit history. WADS. 1960. All info from this source; Unit History. 85th Air Division, Defense. 1957
649th Radar Squadron, Bedford AFS, VA
Contributed by Ron Gustafson
The following are a few things that I remember about the 649th Radar Squadron at Bedford Air Force Station, VA:
– Bedford AFS, being classified as remote or semi-remote, whichever, was a limited tour. There was a minimum of recreational activity on the mountain, making the assignment a lousy tour for the single folks. Spending every evening in the NCO club wasn`t the best way to live, so they hated it and went down the mountain at every opportunity.
– It was a joint-use site, with FAA maintaining the search radar, and Air Force personnel maintaining the height finders and performing AF operations. This was also a disadvantage for the AF maintenance personnel.
– An AF bus went back and forth to the housing area and the intersection with Rte 460 at every shift change. The bus was driven by shift workers, and was a relief to private autos going up and down daily.
– The US Park Service wouldn`t allow trucks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so all major supplies, etc., were transported down the back side of the mountain on a narrow, winding dirt road that I think took 70-80 miles to get to the town of Bedford. Snow removal, which could be a great effort at times, was done by a huge flight-line plow that also had to come up the back road. I remember one night that I had NCOD and therefore, my own vehicle, and we had an ice storm. With no exaggeration, the ice on my vehicle had to be at least 1 inch thick. It took forever to get enough off to see through the windshield, but also to get in the vehicle. When I finally got to the housing area, it was still covered, and when it warmed up, huge sheets of ice slid off onto the road. Of course, there was a lot of hazardous driving up and down in snow and ice, and you experienced all levels of moisture between the mountain top and Bedford.
– During the conversion from temperate to arctic towers, a crane broke while trying to move the entire AN/FPS-6 antenna pedestal. The antenna system was crushed. [I have a picture of it somewhere if I can find it when I get back to Colorado.]
– The Appalachian Trail runs through the site, and was detoured around the perimeter fence.
– We lived in housing #13 directly across from the Commander`s house. Oh yes, we had, I think, six different Commanders during my stay, one of which was relieved of his command during the middle of the night.
— Ron Gustafson