An Atheist in the Ultimate Foxhole

Many people like to proclaim rather ignorantly that there are no atheists in foxholes. Most of these people seem to have never done any type of military service. But occasionally you meet religious people, either active duty or former military, who subscribe to this strange notion that an atheist can’t exist in a stressful situation such as a foxhole. Even my spell checker on my Evo Android phone replaced foxholes with potholes while writing this post. I had to override and force it to put foxholes in the text. Heh Heh Heh.

I spent over four years stationed at Peterson AFB, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs is the home to many conservative, evangelical organizations. I was stationed there in the mid to late 80’s. At that time, like now, their focus was to grow their organization and gain political power.

There were rumors passed around about previous incidents of these organizations using their power over their members stationed at Cheyenne Mountain and at various launch facilities. Apparently in the late seventies, there were several senior officers making comments about doing what god wanted rather than following their training and orders. These officers were quietly removed from their positions. With the current religiosity in the military, I’m not sure that this would happen now.

Mike Weinstein at MRFF has stated recently that 87 missile officers have complained that their commanding officer has made statements encouraging them to disobey their orders if they feel that god would want them to. This commanding officer should be courts martialled and removed from active duty. He is encouraging is officers to not follow their orders. This is extremely dangerous as we are talking about having our nation’s nuclear strike capability in the hands of a mega-church.

I spent much of my time at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, familiarly known as Cheyenne Mountain, or known simply as “The Mountain”. I was assigned in the Missile Warning section, where we monitored the world for incoming ballistic missiles. Cheyenne Mountain was built at the height of the cold war to provide shelter against a Soviet first strike, the ultimate foxhole against nuclear missiles.

The first time I walked through the tunnel and through the blast doors was a surreal experience. To my left was a huge stack of boxes of canned meals (before MREs), above me was the netting used to keep rocks from falling on people and equipment, and in front of me were several multistory buildings mounted on gigantic shocks. I went to my duty station which was a very small and cramped space, filled with computer equipment, completely different from the depiction shown in various television shows and movies.

Nowadays, Cheyenne Mountain has been retired from it’d missions of missile warning, space watch, and satellite tracking. I saw on a recent documentary that the facility has been turned into the alternate command center for NORAD/USNORTHCOM and some sort of secure computer facility.

General Herres was SPACECINC during most of the time I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. He was a great commander to work for. He was on the board for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation until his untimely death from brain cancer in 2008. Even though was a very religious man, he recognized the dangers of our nuclear capability falling in the hands of zealots. Seeing General Herres on the board encouraged me to support MRFF.

While I was stationed at Cheyenne Mountain, I had no problem as an “out in the open” non-believer. Everyone was strictly professional on the job. I think Gen. Herres had a lot to do with this. He made sure that everyone was taken care of and everyone had a chance to perform at their best. I sincerely hope that the current generation of missile warning and launch officers are as professional as we were before. The 87 officers who have made complaints about their over zealous commander have probably already tried to make official complaints or else it was made clear that doing so would be a career-killer. They are to be commended for trying to keep religious doctrines out of the silo.