COMET Field Party's responsibilities were Vertical Control using three wire leveling.
COMET FIELD PARTY
Comet party consisted of approximately 18 military personnel that were divided into two survey crews and a reconnaissance team.
When Comet party was given a survey project they would travel to a central location for the survey activity and set up a base camp. If the surveying required long distance travel from base camp and consumed large amount of time, the survey crews would leave the base camp with three tents and set up what was referred to as a spike camp. The survey crew was six or seven men: Party Chief/instrument man, Recorder, two Rodmen, Truck Driver, and a Computer. Surveying was done in early morning until about 10:00 am and in the evenings from 5:30 pm until near dark. From mid morning until late afternoon the heat waves from the desert were so extensive that observations with a survey instrument were almost impossible. All the elevations established for the bench marks and aerial panels for topographic mapping were by the direct leveling method.
There was not much walking with the survey technique employed. At the beginning of the day the driver of a ¾ ton pick up truck would take a rodman to the starting bench mark or a temporary bench mark and leave him to hold the rod on the mark. Then the driver would take the instrument man to a point for him to set up the instrument. While driving from the Rodman to the instrument set up, the number of rotations made by a rope tied to the rim of the front wheel of the ¾ ton pick up was counted. From the instrument man to the forward Rodman's position the truck driver would drive the same distance as he had from the first Rodman to the instrument man by counting the same number of rope rotations on the front wheel of the ¾ ton truck. We knew the distance traveled by one rotation of the front wheel; therefore, counting to a certain number of rotations would keep our distance under the maximum permitted for second order leveling standards. By keeping the number of rope revolutions the same between the rear observation and the forward observation, the distances were balanced and no correction for curvature and refraction were necessary. I believe we were completing about 5 miles of level lines a day. One person was always left at the spike camp during the surveying.
The Cuban Crisis occurred while we were at spike camp. Members of the survey party that were from the deep South were concerned for there families back home since they thought their home was close to Cuba. All of us were anxious. We had no weapons.
In the early summer of 1963 there were about 12 of us in a triangulation party that went to Tunisia. We went westerly along the coastal highway from Tripoli, Libya to the Tunisian border and were checked through customs. After customs we proceeded southerly to the project along the Tunisian and Libyan border which was approximately at 32 degrees north latitude and 11 degrees east longitude, Quad Sheet NI 32-16. Contour intervals on the quad sheet were 50 meters with supplementary contours at 25 meter intervals. Distances were measured with Tellurometers, angles with Wild T-2. Heliotropes were used for targets. I kept notes for Sergeant Jones during a Polaris observation and can recall entering a temperature in the field book of 104 degrees between 11 and 12 pm. During the day time our thermometers would read there maximum of 120 degrees. Survey observations did cross the border. Surveyors setting targets in Libya crossed the border by avoiding Libyan patrols. The border in the area we were surveying was patrolled by the Libyans with machine guns mounted on a turret on what appeared to be a ¾ ton pickup. When it got near the time to for us to return to Libya, a scout was placed at the border to monitor the Libyan Patrol. We had our vehicles parked in a Uadi (watercourse) out of site of the border patrol. The scout signaled us when the patrol had passed our location and we crossed the border in full darkness with no lights. We were not near any roads or towns, just in the middle of the desert. Upon completion of the survey in Libya and returning to Tripoli we passed area's that was fenced. Within the confines of the fences were land mines. This concluded my surveying in Libya and I still had about five more months to serve there.
First Sergeant Tom Harris had me driving military officers and plain clothes personnel to and from Tripoli Airport during my remaining time with the 64th. Two days before my departure to return to the states was pay day. While I was sleeping the night after being paid my pay was stolen from my wallet while I was sleeping. On the day of my departure I was called to Headquarters to see the First Sergeant. Tom Harris gave me $25.00 to go home on leave when I got back to the states. That $25.00 bought me a plane ticket from Charleston, South Carolina to St. Louis, Missouri.
Al Crumley was stationed with the 64 th Engineer Battalion from September, 1962 to February, 1964 in Libya and assigned to Comet Field Party. In 1963 he was with the field party that did some triangulation along the Tunisian border. (Photo as yet unavailable).
Al Writes: "My tour of duty with the 64 th. Engineer Battalion at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli Libya was from September, 1962 to February, 1964. My MOS was 823.10 (Topographic Computer). I was assigned to Comet Party who did Vertical Control Surveys in Libya.