Lineage and Honors History
6912 Electronic Security Group (ESG)
Lineage. Constituted and activated as 6912 Radio Squadron, Mobile on 8 May 1955. Redesignated as: 6912 Security Squadron, 1 Jul 1963; 6912 Electronic Security Group, -1 Aug 1979. Inactivated on 15 Jul 1988.
Assignments. 6910 Security Group, 8 May 1955; 6910 Radio Group, Mobile, 1 Sep 1956; 6910 Security Wing, 1 Jul 1962; European Security Region, 31 Jan 1970; United States Air Force Security Service, 30 Jun 1972; Electronic Security, Europe (later European Electronic Security Division), 30 Sep 1980-15 Jul 1988.
Stations. Landsberg AB, West Germany, 8 May 1955; Bingen Kaserne, West Germany, 30 Jul 1955; Templehof Central Airport, West Germany, 1 Jul 1959-15 Jul 1988.
Service Streamers. None.
Campaign Streamers. None.
Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers. None.
Decorations. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards: 1 Jul 1975-30 Jun 1977; 1 Jul 1977-30 Jun 1978; 1 Jul 1978-30 Jun 1979; 1 Jul 1979-30 Jun 1981; I1 Jul 1982-30 Jun 1984..
Lineage, Assignments, Stations, and Honors through 15 Jul 1988.
Emblem. Approved on 21 Oct 1980.
I was ecstatic the day I received a telephone call from MGen Skip Burns, Commander of USAFSS asking if I would accept the job as Commander, 6912th SS in Berlin. My job in the Pentagon was Chief, SIGINT Branch. I had been in the assignment for just short of four years (the magic tour length) in the Pentagon. And, I had just returned from Berlin a few weeks before with other Air Staff delegates to investigate a CINC USAFE complaint. I fell in love with the 6912th mission.
My boss in the Pentagon said I could accept the position if I could find a replacement. I told him that he need not worry because my staff was totally capable of anything I was doing. But, a replacement was available and I got the orders to go. Four years in the Pentagon is enough for anyone and I was ready. My family was thrilled to death. They had never been to Europe and to get an assignment to Berlin was frosting on the cake.
Once it was known that I was going to Berlin, I got a call from the Chief of A Group. Ms Ann Carachristy (sp?) - a very nice lady who later became Assistant DIRNSA. She invited me to the agency for some briefings. The briefings were excellent and provided detail of the mission and plans for the future. I was appreciative. Appreciative that is until she got to the primary thrust of the briefing. The plan, according to the agency, was to move the AF out of the Marienfelde site to Teufelsberg under the Army. The 6912 was to become an administrative organization until phased out. She said Mari was in a hole. They even had diagrams of the Mari mission at Tberg. And, get this, USAFSS had agreed to the plan. Remember, I was still at the Air Staff. You can guess what happened.
I had been around this business for many years and loved it, but that ignited my spark. It was obvious that we had to stop this plan. We had to get the local theater users into this and show them that “Mari was not in a hole.” If the USAFE folks agreed with me and I was to show the world that Mari was not in a hole, we had a chance. That was my plan before I departed NSA that afternoon and headed back to the Pentagon. For this reason it was imperative that the 6912th come up with some great things within their mission. We needed to design briefings that showed the interaction capabilities within the unit, the synergism of their products and the fact that the European command was not about to loose this resource. It took a while and a lot of hard work, but it worked. CINCUSAFE said that “the 6912th was his eyes and ears to the East.” I took a lot of joking about that, but it is true.
Off we went to Berlin. My family and I were all so excited that we didn’t even get a nap on arrival. We got on a Berlin Bus and toured the city. What an experience. The next morning was a Saturday so I decided to tour the units. My first stop was the Radar Operations section at Tempelhof. Wow, did this hit me as a giant interactive instrument for the other sites, Mari and Tberg. To be honest, I got lost in the Radar Operations building trying to find the operational site. After a short visit at Tempelhof, I caught a staff car to Mari and then to Tberg. Adrenalin ran faster with each visit of the sites. What a mission and what talented people. One could not ask for anything more.
The base commander and his staff were another matter. The 7350th Air Base Group had the notion that they owned the 6912th and that everything we did was accountable to them--from personnel, logistics, administrative, to operations and even command, an amazing and thoroughly misguided notion. The people in the 6912th were treated like second class citizens. Although the base commander, in time, became a real supporter, he was initially of the opinion that the 6912th was his and he had control of it. And sadly to say, some members of the 6912th believed the same thing.
It didn’t take long to figure this one out. I totally excluded the 7350th from all unit activities. The officers and senior NCOs were told that we were a unit under the USAFSS and we answered to no one but our chain of command and that I would answer to the 7350th ABGroup.
It worked. We were the reason the 7350th was in Berlin. In time they realized that and supported us very well indeed.
Right in the middle of these efforts a USAFSS Chief Master Sergeant visited us with orders to transfer all my cops to the 7350th. I invited him to visit my office and when he confirmed that this was indeed his objective, I invited him to leave Berlin that day. This about blew my mind. Obviously, I first called the USAFSS Commander, then followed it up with a message which completely overturned the objective of transferring my cops to the base. All the other cops in all USAFSS units were being transferred to the various host command units except those in the 6912th. By the way, this Chief Master Sergeant later became a great friend of mine and we still to this date work together on various projects. A wonderful guy sent on a lousy mission.
We developed a unit briefing that became the talk of Europe. We were invited to many organizations and functions to include the French, Russian, and, of course, the British. The USCOB sent visitors by the dozens to see us, as did the Ambassador and the CINCEUR. We even talked with the Russian Warsaw Pact chief and members of his staff. Members of Congress visited as well.
The 6912th was finally recognized for what it was, “the” unit in Berlin. We soon won the Outstanding Unit Award -- the first for the 6912th, after all those years.
One of our most famous programs, aside from the “synergistic effect of Comint, Elint, and Radint“ was our Tactics Reports. Many will remember these reports. The operational commands were enormously appreciative of them. In fact information in these reports was used to train our fighter and bomber pilots. The agency had a fit, calling the production of the reports illegal and giving away too much. Later in time, the agency actually boasted about these reports and their utility. I will leave it at that while you all recall the major efforts and skills required to develop and report such information. A truly outstanding product vital to the operational forces.
We had the most talented people in all of the USAF. We were all very proud.
One issue became a serious issue. Other AF and Army personnel could visit East Berlin. We could not. This seemed unreasonable. I contacted the security folks in the Pentagon and asked a simple question - “why?” They did not have a very good answer. We went back and forth on that question for a few weeks, and finally we won. Our folks were finally able to visit East Berlin.
There are many other stories about our assignment with the 6912th. Suffice to say that the men and women of the 6912th were a cut above other AF personnel. We did the job, we came back the next day for more and we did it right every time. In the Ballard Blue Jeans Buffet we all let our hair down. We were all proud of what we did. And, we had a right to be.
Things got a little less hectic during my third year in Berlin and I applied for another year there. The command approved it. One Saturday afternoon I was lying in bed reading a book when the telephone rang. It was from MGen Doyle Larson, an old friend who was Commander of USAFSS. He said, “Bill, my plow is too full and I need you to come back to the headquarters at Kelly as the DCS Operations to help transition the unit to the Electronic Security Command (ESC). I tried to explain that I had an extension to my tour. He said, don’t worry about that, come on home. I stood up, saluted and started packing.
One last thing.
I salute the men and women of the 6912th.
William T. Ballard
Colonel, USAF, Ret