The aftermath, Oct. 29 and beyond - USAFSS in the Cuban Missile Crisis
An aerial view of the AN FRD-10 circular antenna at Card Sound, Fla., 13 miles south of Homestead Air Force Base, Fla. The 6947th Security Squadron began utilizing this antenna in 1970. (U. S. Air Force photo)
The aftermath, Oct. 29 and beyond - USAFSS in the Cuban Missile Crisis

by Gabe Marshall
Air Force ISR Agency History Office

12/12/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- The Soviet Union agreement to remove their medium-range ballistic missiles from Cuba on Oct. 28, 1962, effectively ended the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For the United States Air Force Security Service, the successful end of the crisis between the superpowers reinforced its place in history as a provider of invaluable intelligence to U.S. forces.

After the crisis one lesson became clear--it changed the way the command planned for contingency operations and showed that USAFSS could quickly respond to any Cold War hotspot.

The USAFSS C-130 Airborne Communications Reconnaissance Program operations against Cuba continued for months after the Soviets' removed the missiles from the island.

By Dec. 1, the command's ground-based collection mission at Cudjoe Key, Fla., had more than 250 personnel engaged in operations.

Even though U.S. land forces returned to garrison and the Strategic Air Command's massive bomber force scaled down its alert status, USAFSS planned to expand the ground operations in southern Florida.

On Feb. 1, 1963, USAFSS activated the 6947th Security Squadron at Key West Naval Air Station, Fla., to replace the original Emergency Reaction Unit that deployed there in October 1962. The 6947th SS, and its successor units, maintained a presence at several locations in the Florida Keys until June 30, 1996.

Later in 1963, as a direct result of its experience in Cuban Missile Crisis, USAFSS activated three new ERU squadrons to support contingencies around the world.

The command stood-up the 6948th Security Squadron (Mobile) at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Tex., on July 1, 1963. By late 1963, ERU operations began in Europe and the Pacific with the 6911th SSM at Darmstadt, Germany and the 6926th SSM at Clark AB, the Philippines.

Command planners envisioned a larger global ERU capability. They wanted USAFSS to quickly respond to any trouble spot that required communications intelligence and secure communications.

In retrospect, in the fast-paced Cold War world of the 1960s, USAFSS had already established ground units in South Vietnam and Thailand.

Clearly, the Cuban Missile Crisis, in America's own backyard, proved to be a turning point for the command. USAFSS proved that it could meet the difficult challenge of rapidly deploying an intelligence collection capability to meet the needs of the war fighter and the nation's leaders.

Editor's Note: This is the third and final part in the series on USAFSS in the Cuban Missile Crisis.