Archives For RAF Greenham Common

I was surfing wordpress sites the other day and came across one that linked to a fascinating collection of distinctive church buildings. I’ll include the link at the end of this column (so you don’t get too distracted, and fail to finish reading my impressions).

Many of the edifices are intriguing. Most are unique. A handful are truly inspiring.

One of the “unique” designs is found in the architecture of Saint Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago. For some viewers, the structure suggests minarets. Others see it as a contemporary version of Moscow’s Cathedral of Saint Basil. For me, it evokes a rather more martial memory.

In the early 1990s I was stationed at RAF Greenham Common where we were part of the nuclear deterrence mission. We supported the GLCM (ground launched cruise). We actually accomplished our national goal, in persuading the Soviet Union to mutually disarm through the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. That was a significant accomplishment.

As part of the process, NATO and the Soviets dispatched Verification Teams to ensure that each was following through with the reduction and ultimate elimination of the missiles. After all of ours had been removed, I was privileged to serve as a Soviet Escort Officer during one such visit. It was interesting to watch how the highlight for the Soviets was their visit to our base exchange. (They were shocked by the diverse offerings of everyday capitalism and suspected that we depleted other stores to stock this one in a manner that would impress them.)

While they were visiting, they conducted pro forma inspections of all the locations where a missile could be hidden, including under regular manhole covers, as I recall.

Perhaps by now you understand why the Saint Joseph building reminds me of that tour of duty?

I am probably the only person whose first thought upon viewing this building is: what an amazing disguise for missile silos! Of course, one factor for my reaction is the clearly Russian/Ukrainian shape of the entire structure. A peculiar response to the picture, right? And yet . . . without inspecting the tubes, who can say with certainty whether or not my first reaction may have been accurate?

Here’s the link to the 50 Most Extraordinary Churches.