Sergeant helps lay groundwork for Vandenberg mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Wesley Carter
  • 30 Space Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's note: This is the last of a two-part series describing the early years of Vandenberg.) 

After spending months clearing trees, building a runway, doing kitchen patrol and other tasks Master Sgt. (Ret.) George Mecum and the Air Force started to focus efforts on an out of this world task- space exploration.

Shortly after moving into the bases resolution for base housing ,a trailer park, Sergeant Mecum was selected to go to Rocketdyne Missile Engine School in Van Nuys, Calif. There he would learn skills that would continue to pay him back for the rest of his life. 

While living in the trailer park, Sergeant Mecum became the propulsion shop chief, meaning he needed to be able to be reached at home at all times. This was a problem since no phone lines were installed in the trailer park at this time.

"To alleviate the situation, the base air police (security forces) would come to my home and I would talk to various sites over their radio," Sergeant Mecum said. "Neighbors questioned why air police trucks where at my house all the time."

As the propulsion chief, Sergeant Mecum saw many firsts, including the birth of the Atlas program.

"I returned to base and started working on the Atlas program, where I stayed until 1967," Sergeant Mecum said. "A program that wasn't always successful by today's standard."

Nor were they successful by Mrs. Mecum's standards.

"I remember the first time my office let me out to watch a launch," Mrs. Mecum said. "It went up for a little and then started shaking - we all ran to cover."

At times launch debris would fall down on the base and, in one instance, into a home.

"There was a guy in my shop who had a large piece of debris fall through his trailer," Sergeant Mecum said. "He was lucky that all the occupants were on the other end."

There is no doubt that Sergeant Mecum and the rest of the space pioneers, which were at Vandenberg when the base started to lead the way into space, not only set the standard for space but also our core value of service before self.

When asked about how he was able to humble himself to clear timber, perform kitchen patrol and build a flight line in the early days to being part of the space mission for the rest of his career, his solemn response showed his character:

"It was my job, so I did it."

This attitude is a great reminder to all Airmen that we are called to protect the American people. No matter what the task is, we should take a look at the foundation that Sergeant Mecum set: serving the country before himself.

Sergeant Mecum retired from the Air Force in 1980, but continued working on missiles until May of 1996.