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Taxi Service for Central Security

Load on RampBernie Goldbach in Ireland | C-130 shot in Minnesota.

I HAVE LOGBOOKS in the house that bring back memories of flights involving the Central Security Service. One of those CSS flights involved opening our doors in flight.

I often wonder if I will ever take snippets of the adventures I enjoyed and weave them into a fictional account of a young pilot going about the business of flying the flag over foreign lands. I've got the storyline percolating in my brain and often wake up in the middle of the night remembering some white knuckle moment.

I rarely got to see the view of Loadmaster Dylan Strom in the photo because I was up front doing the driving. However, I've five jumps out the side and back of several aircraft so I know the sight and sound of hitting the slipstream and watching the silk canopy pop open overhead.

It's the story about the human cargo that feature in my unwritten journal. Some of those people shields from the United States Central Security Service, an inter-departmental agency of the Department of Defense established when I entered the US Air Force Academy. The CSS brought together cryptologists and some very focused players with counterintelligence backgrounds. They didn't talk much when we flew them to distant locations.

One guy came aboard with a satellite communications antenna that replaced the overhead hatch on our C-141. We wondered if it was airworthy at the time but he had all the documentation to say since the CSS bought the flight, he could use the overhead hatch as decreed in the airlift tasking order. To this day, I have no idea what he was doing during our flight down the Straits of Aden but I imagine he collected something very special during our eight hour flight while he typed a lot of stuff on a small keyboard at the navigator's table. Weflew with three independent inertial navigation units and that freed up space for a signals specialist if one was ever needed.

Since leaving active duty, I've read about specialised intelligence gathering of the CSS, including black bag operations that probably depend upon flexible flying by aircrews. I logged a lot of those kinds of hours. Had my active duty career involved a stint in Maryland, I know I would have worked side-by-side other pilots flying black twin-engine turboprops and that part of my career might have resulted in 10 years of black ops just like one of my college friends. The resources of the Central Security Service remain robust under the direction of the NSA with a generous compartmentalised budget approved by the Secretary of Defense. It's all part of the post 9/11 counter terrorism strategies which have experienced significant growth in scale and complexity as America refines its sophisticated listening capability.

James Bamford -- The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-52132-4.

Bernie Goldbach logged more than 3000 flying hours in the USAF and landed on six continents while on active duty in the 1980s.