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The first time I laid eyes on the Pentagon



I drove from our new home in Dale City, Va., early on the morning of Dec. 1, 1971, to my new job at the world’s largest office building, the Pentagon.

I knew nothing about my new job other than I had a printing career, and would most likely be assigned to the government printing department. (Was I in for an awakening?)

Things started badly from the very beginning. When I was about a mile from the Pentagon, I ran into a traffic jam of hundreds of types of vehicles. Military and civilians were standing outside of their cars, talking. I joined them to see what the hold up was.

I was told these folks ran into this every morning. Protestors of the Vietnam War were lying in the road, and we had to wait until the Washington D.C. Police Department arrived with buses to haul these people away.

I was also told that these same people would be there every morning.

After the protestors were hauled away, I drove into the Pentagon parking lot that held 5,000 cars. It took me some time to find a place to park. I had to walk what seemed like a mile to the main entrance. I found I could not enter without the proper ID card.

The guard called the personnel office for someone to escort me to their office. There had to be over 100 military and civilians working in the large room I walked into.

After I was signed in and processed, they took a photo of me and soon handed me my new photo ID card that I would wear at all times. As I looked around this big room, I noticed my card was a different color than these other people’s. When I asked why I was told I was one of the few to be able to go anywhere in the Pentagon. (At that time, I knew I was in a lot of trouble.)

A master sergeant who would be working for me came to escort me to my workplace. A guard was sitting at a desk just inside our door, and no one got inside without the proper ID card.

I met Col. Johnson, my new boss. He said he was glad to have me on his team. We talked for over an hour while he had my records in front of him, and he said he was very impressed.

He said that I was the first printer to run his large department, as I was the ranking non-commissioned officer, and that we were open 24/7 with three shifts.

I would be on the swing shift as it had the most people working and was the heaviest work load, and because it was during the morning bombings of Vietnam when we would be getting messages from all over the world.

The first thing that came to mind is that I would miss those folks lying in the highway, and that was fine with me.

I had military men and women and civilians working for me. It did not take them long to find out that I was a nice guy, and that I was a quick learner.

With me driving 50 miles every day round trip to work, the protestors everywhere you looked, and all that top secret work, I knew that it was time for me to retire — which I did.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.



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