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Murray Life Magazine Looking Back

Murray Life Magazine now offers you the chance to relive the past and read full copies of articles you missed. We like to call it "Looking Back" Every other week, we will deliver you a different article that helped make Murray Life Magazine what it is today. From our very first issues in the 90's to today's magazine, we have built a large collection of high quality content, and now we are now sharing it with you one more time.

This time we are flashing back to the Winter of 2003 with a story about Murray State University alumnus Kaye Pryor and her trip to Thule Air Force Base in Greenland.
Murray Life Magzine

Sponsored By:

West Kentucky Children's Health Coalition


Swinging South on the North Pole
with Kaye Pryor

Editor's note

When Kaye Pryor finished her fall semester at Murray State, she was looking forward to a May graduation. It would be a culmination of years of study: a traditional college program broken up by years of a professional singing career. However, in the days leading up to Christmas 2002, her learning experiences took a very interesting turn.

How does a 2003 Murray State graduate manage to find herself 800 miles south of the North Pole where the wind chill reaches minus 42 degrees during the season of 24-hour darkness? Simple: She agrees to perform a USO tour with the Nashville-based “Deborah Bradshaw Band” at the Thule Air Base in Greenland.

Thule (pronounced “TOO-lee) is so far north that you are looking down on the globe when you finally locate it. Logic says essential travel items will include fleece and thermal clothes, battery heated socks, extreme weather gloves, and a warm coat, hat and scarf. Pictures of Florida beaches and family photos might be needed for mental support to offset living without sunlight for nine days.

We travel from Nashville to Baltimore to Greenland, and there are several delays. Eventually the DC-8, nicknamed “DC Late,” lands at Thule after lunch—in pitched darkness. Greetings are presenting by a receiving line of military officers standing in the cold to welcome the weekly flight into Thule, this time carrying more than supplies.

Hotel accommodations are better than expected: there's a small refrigerator, a microwave, VCR and coffeepot. All females stay on the first floor and male visitors stay on the second. Terry cloth robes are provided for trips to a large shared bathroom facility in the middle of the hall on each floor. Surprisingly, temperatures inside the hotel and other facilities are warm and comfortable.

In the cafeteria-style dining hall, several varieties of Danish and American food can be purchased. Guests are told to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration and to eat citrus to avoid fatigue. Colonel Louis E. Christensen and his wife accompany the group for their first meal and provide even more information about the base and its history.

Thule Air Base is located in a remote area on the world's largest island of 840,000 square miles. An ice cap or small glaciers cover more than 80% of Greenland. Thule is also the only place on earth where three active glaciers meet.

The construction of Thule Air Base began in 1951 known as “Operation Blue Jay.” It was built on a broad, flat glacial floor between two rock ridges and designed as a forward base fro staging bombers and tankers of the Strategic Air Command.

In the late 1950's the Soviet Union produced intercontinental ballistic missiles, and as defense, the United States developed a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Three sites, including Thule Air Base, were selected for construction of the early warning systems.

Another military facility on base is Detachment 3 of the 22nd Space Operations Squadron. Satellite tracking and control operations provide scientific research missions and relay commands to space satellites from a center located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Due to the extreme conditions, military personnel are typically stationed for 12 months—civilian contractors might stay for two ro more years. During one year they experience three months of 24-hour darkness and eventually, three and a half months of 24-hour sunlight.

While hiking and golfing can be enjoyed during the warmer weather, guests visiting during the dark season can only make library trips to sit and read, while getting simulated sunshine next to a bio lamp. Staying in touch with family members is easier than expected thanks to phone calls that are routed through the home military base in Colorado—it's just like calling within the United States.

The band's three performances are well received by military personnel and local contractors who are glad to see new faces and hear good live music. Between and after sets, most of the officers talk about family and discuss where they will be stationed after they leave Thule. Some reveal that they are ready to move on and one officer even mentions how much he would like to be able to go out and get a McDonald's hamburger.

When band members have completed their stay and the “DC-Late” fails to arrive in Thule as scheduled, it becomes necessary to provide next-of-kin information and board a military Air Force plane. But he anxiety over the rough travel is needless. The trip is uneventful—just very, very long.

Once safely home in Kentucky, we felt relief. Our worst Bluegrass winter is a balmy paradise next to the rigors of the holidays in Greenland. The trip was an eye-opener, an education, and a thril.

But is was also an honor and a privilege to be able to share the experience of entertaining military personnel who give so much for this country. Too often we forget that there are hundred of thousands of people around the world of whom we never hear. They are not fighting pitched battles, but they are ready to do so for us. They may not be in a month-long midnight or a frozen wasteland, but they are still out of touch with loved ones, neighbors, and the little things we enjoy most when they are impossible to experience.




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