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C. M. Consulting
P.O. Box 407
Odell, Oregon 97044
United States
Phone: 541-352-7942
Fax: 541-352-7943



A Division of Cliff Mansfield Incorporated


Kwajalein Atoll
A Little Slice of Heaven


Cliff Mansfield


Beautiful Scenery Dominates Kwajalein Atoll

  In the wake of the September, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington air travel in America and beyond changed forever. For me, this point was driven home in mid November.
  Mike Shurtz, owner of ALmix in Fort Wayne Indiana, called to ask me to travel to Kwajalein Atoll to work on an asphalt plant owned by the US Army. Far out in the Pacific, Kwajalein is an Army base located 8.5 degrees north of the equator, about half way between the Philippines and Hawaii. The L shaped island is dominated by an airport barely large enough to handle a Boeing 737. The island played a pivotal role in WW2 and is a part of the Marshall Island group, the most famous member of which is Bikini Atoll where the US tested nuclear devices in the ‘50s. Kwaj, as it is called by the locals, is the world’s largest coral atoll. An atoll is a ring shaped island surrounding a lagoon. Kwajalein’s lagoon is over 90 miles long and 30 miles wide, enclosing a kidney shaped area of 1,350 square miles. This giant lagoon is what makes this atoll so important to the United States in the 21st century. Kwajalein Atoll is central to the ‘Star Wars’ missile defense system. Test missiles are fired from the Continental US and tracked by Raytheon equipment located on different islands around the atoll. At the end of their flight, these missiles splash down in the lagoon and are recovered by our government. How they shoot something many, many thousands of miles and get it to land in this relatively little lagoon is a mystery to me, but they do it. For those of you interested in learning more about Kwajalein I would suggest an Internet search for “Kwajalein Atoll” on your favorite search engine. The history of this area of the world is fascinating.

Kwajalein Atoll is a Restricted Army Base, Part of the Star Wars Missile Program

Wednesday, 14 November,2002 at 06:00 I stumbled all bleary eyed into Portland International Airport. I live 95 miles east, so I’d been up since 03:30. I’d seen all the news reports about the 2 hour delays getting through security, so I was ready for the hassles. I carry a heavy tool box filled with hand tools and electrical test equipment which I was sure would cause me some problems. To my utter amazement, both check-in and security were a cake-walk. I was through both in less than an hour, marginally longer than before the attacks. Little did I know that the worst awaited me on my return trip. We mounted up, flew to Hawaii, then on to the island of Majuro and on to Kwajalein. I spent over 13 hours on airplanes.
  My job on Kwaj was an easy one. I was going there to evaluate an asphalt plant, recommend repairs and suggest what spares to have on hand. The plane landed after dark, around 21:00. I was met at the airport by the project manager, Doug Vander Veen. He’s a big, rangy guy with an easy laugh and an infectious good humor. We hit it off immediately. We left the airport in a raging down pour, mounted a golf cart and headed to the bar for a beer and something to eat. By the time we arrived at the bar I was soaked to the skin but in the 90 degree heat, it felt good. Heat. Rain. Apparently I’d arrived in the winter, rainy season. Now I’m from Oregon and if there is anything I know about it is rainy winters! I can tell you this, winters on Kwajalein beat the heck outa Oregon winters.
  The tropical heat, combined with the salt laden winds on Kwajalein, is very hard on equipment. Having spent a lot of time in the tropics in the past, I was expecting a high level of deterioration caused by rust. This place was no exception. If anything, it was worse than anyplace else I’ve been. I saw a 2001 Ford F-250 with very few miles on it that was rusted through in many places. The asphalt plant was in better condition. It was rusty, but sound. It had not been operated in many months, so I expected the worse. To my surprise, almost all systems worked with very little problems. We worked during the days and passed the evenings sitting on the beach sippin’ Miller Genuine Draft. Kwajalein is a little slice of heaven.

Jimmy, the Marshallese plant operator takes a much needed break

I spent a pleasant week on Kwaj, soakin’ up sun and suds. Finally, it was time to return to the US. I left Kwajalein early in the morning and flew back to Hawaii, where US Customs awaited my arrival. We entered the Customs area and milled around about 20 minutes awaiting our baggage. Suddenly, the PA system came alive with the worst possible words for the intrepid International traveler- “Aloha Airlines passenger Cliff Mansfield please report immediately to Customs Checkpoint Alpha 2!” People who, moments before, had been chatting happily with me about asphalt plants and world travel moved quickly away as if my name had suddenly changed to Habib, I’d rolled a turban about my head and hoisted a sign that said, “Down with the USA!”. As my stomach roiled, my mind wrestled with the question, “What the heck did I do to attract the attention of Customs?” Head hung low, I headed for the infamous Customs Checkpoint Alpha 2. Was it my imagination, or was Customs Checkpoint Alpha 2 synonymous with “Torture Chamber”? As I walked along, a National Guard soldier came to me, “You Mansfield?” he asked. I nodded. He took up station on my right, slightly behind, while another solder marched on my left. Their M-16 rifles rattled ominously as we headed off to what I was sure was the gallows. A little voice in my head kept saying, “This can’t be good!”
  We marched past Customs Checkpoint Alpha 2 and on to what looked like an interrogation room about 16ft by 16ft. At an austere table in the center of this room sat a stone faced National Guard Lieutenant who looked to be about 22 years old. Flanking him were two older US Customs officers and in front of him, like a big old finger pointed at the middle of my chest, sat my toolbox. I stood in front of this table, soldier to the right of me, soldier to the left of me and this raw butterbar in front of me. The silence stretched on as the Lieutenant studied some papers in front of him. Finally, “This yours?” asked the officer.  There it was, out in the open. I was busted. After all those years of flying into every third world country around, then back to the states I’d managed to get my tools back into the country. But now, the odds had caught up with me. I steeled myself and, with as much bravado as I could muster, said, “Yes.”
  The kid in front of me looked up at me all stony faced and said, “Open it!”
  Now my knees were knocking together. I fumbled the keys out of my pocket. Behind me, the soldiers shuffled nervously as I opened the toolbox. Inside, revealed for all to see, sat sinister screwdrivers, wicked wrenches and malevolent meters. I trembled at what I knew was coming. The interrogation began.

The Offending Package of Nefarious Necessities


  Three and a half hours later I knew three things as absolutely irrefutable fact:   #1 I carried 297 individual items in my toolbox.   #2 All of these items are approved for entry into the United States of America.   #3 Air travel into the U.S. will never be the same again!

   The delay caused me to miss my plane back to Portland, Oregon. Thanks to the U.S. government I got to spend a pleasant night at the Hawaii Hilton, then flew out the next day at two in the afternoon for Portland, Oregon.


For additional information on this subject or help with any problems encountered contact Cliff Mansfield, 541-352-7942, 7:30am to 9:00pm Pacific Standard Time.

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