Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, the new Area 51?

Jeff's neurosurgery appointment was yesterday. All is well, and he does not require any treatment for the numb area on his thigh (at this time.) On our way out of the hospital, we noticed a gentleman in uniform (303rd Psyops), and asked him if there was a military commissary nearby. We have missed having a military base nearby, as we used to save money by using Jeff's privileges to shop at the commissary, BX/PX, Class 6 and gas stations. As far as we knew, the closest base was over 2 hours away. However, the gentleman gave us directions to the reserve support center in Oakdale, PA. Joy!

There is a lot of construction being done to the major highways around Pittsburgh, so we began our "Commissary Quest" following the Specialist's directions. We most likely zigged when we should have zagged, as we soon found ourselves in the middle of rural "nowhere". We did discover a wonderful market that sells Boars Head brand meats, and home baked fare. The young ladies behind the deli counter were happy to point us back in the right direction, and we set off again, only to find ourselves in yet another small hamlet in the middle of nowhere. The VFW again pointed us on the right path, this time telling us to bear with the construction and utilize the highway instead of trying to detour (bear in mind, the directions we received prior included such details as "when you see the gas station, turn left until you see the cows" etc.) After a brief drive, we found the support center (which was amazing, as we drove through every color belt in the county during a period of three hours!)

I am very used to large military facilities, complete with guarded gates, roads lined with barracks and equipment, and so on. I have enjoyed driving through the Air Force Academy and Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs (also Ft. Carson, which is not a very pretty base), as well as Luke AFB in Phoenix, AZ, and the Port Hueneme Navy Base in Oxnard, CA. All three location in Colorado Springs have excellent facilities, and Luke AFB has a beautiful setting. The Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, in Oakdale, PA, is, at best... a glimpse into the era of soldiers wearing Class A's to leave the base. It is very tiny, surrounded by new housing development. On the base itself, ancient guard shacks stand empty along unmarked roads, while somewhat primitive signs(in terms of military base signage) point us to batches of buildings.

We found the commissary nestled along a path, the ancient building itself set apart from the parking lot with a cheery sign welcoming visitors (alas, it was closed, being a Monday!) The base veterinarian has offices in the same building. The BX was down the way, also closed, and nearby were in-processing offices, which were also closed. The whole of the CEKSF seems to shut down on Mondays, leaving visitors with the odd sense of having stumbled back in time to a bygone era. I promptly dubbed this tiny support facility "Area 51", as my imagination pondered old movies and silly theories wherein the Government had set up secret laboratories underneath 'dead' bases so the local inhabitants would be none-the-wiser to their experiments. Surely, underneath the CEKSF, humble soldiers buzzed like busy insects around top secret flying saucers, while white-haired scientists worked frantically on the life support systems of fluid-filled tubes, wherein captured aliens floated in unconscious bliss. This is Oakdale, PA, land of the hamlets and farms, the true middle of nowhere, nestled in a saddle of the green Allegheny hills. Has Groom Lake been moved??

To be fair, it really wasn't a bad little outpost. The people we did encounter were very friendly. The area is very tranquil, with rolling hills, fields of corn, and thriving woodland. We will return next week to replace my expired military ID, and to do a little shopping.

More about the CEKSF:
As a sub-installation of Fort Dix, NJ, the mission of the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility (CEKSF), Oakdale, Pa is providing vital installation support services to service members of all military branches, their dependents, civilians and retirees in order to promote an efficient, effective readiness posture while enhancing the quality of life for our customers in our geographic area of responsibility.

Headquarters, U. S. Army Support Detachment, Oakdale, moved from South Park Military Reservation an integral park of the Pennsylvania Military District, located in a county park of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in 1961 to its present location near Oakdale, Pennsylvania.

The facility was first occupied by Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 18th Artillery Group (AD and the 662d Radar Squadron (USAF). The installation provided logistical support to the Air Defense Missile Master site and nine Nike sites along with 124 Military Constructed Army (MCA) family housing units located in groups of 12 and 16 single units to provide housing for the military personnel required to man the missile control and launching sites surrounding the metropolitan Pittsburgh area.

In 1962. the Federal Aviation Administration assumed part of the radar mission from the Air Force and in 1972 assumed the complete radar mission. In 1974, the 18th Artillery Group (AD) was inactivated, leaving US Army Support Detachment and the Federal Aviation Administration as the remaining activities at Oakdale. The Nike Sites were all closed, but the MCA housing units remained active to serve all branches of the military service eligible for government housing. The housing units were inactivated and disposed of through BRAC 95. Approximately 72 of the 201 acres of land were released to the Department of the Interior in 1974 for the Legacy of Parks program.

In September 1974, FORSCOM approved a plan for continued support of reserve components in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This reorganization and consolidation of the US Army Support Detachment was focused on increasing the readiness of the 99th ARCOM (encompassing 11,870 personnel and 14,829 major pieces of equipment) and its major units consisting of an artillery group, a petroleum group, an ordinance group, a field depot, two artillery battalions, a supply and storage battalion, a personnel and administration battalion, a general hospital and three USAR schools. The US Army Support Detachment continued to provide base support functions to units of the 83d ARCOM located in Ohio, US Army Readiness Group, 14 ROTC activities, land the Armed Services Recruiters.

In 1977, Forces Command implemented the one-post concept, inactivating Headquarters, US Army Support Detachment. The post was redesignated at the Oakdale Army Support Element, and those support activities remaining were transferred to the existing Directorships of Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Pennsylvania. In 1983, Oakdale Support Element became a subinstallation of Fort George G. Meade, Md. In 1987, the facility was designated as the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility (CEKSF). In 1988, it became Garrison Headquarters under First US Army and 1993 CEKSF was realigned under Fort Drum, NY, and as of 1 October 1997 realigned under Fort Dix and the US Army Reserve Command, Atlanta, Ga.

The mission of the Directorate of Public Works is to support the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility and its tenants; Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Community Club, Commissary, the Pittsburgh Readiness Group, the Maintenance and Repair Facility at Neville Island, the 99th ARCOM with approximately 66 U.S. Army Reserve facilities located in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In other news: my time to relax is at an end for today. We have completed work in the dungeon, reorganized our closets, cleaned the bedroom from top to bottom, and the only work left is a general dusting on the main floor, plus spring cleaning for the spare bedroom upstairs. It's time to get back to work!

8 responded with...:

TMTW said...

Still have not been able to get the spare time to visit the commissary.

Anonymous said...

Although your last posting re Oakdale was 2 yrs ago, I discovered it tonite after I googled "Oakdale". I commissioned as a 1st LT in July 1989 and very shortly thereafter 3 of us "newbies" and our recruiter headed to Oakdale for uniforms and supplies. The excitement was unbearable; we grew up in northeatern Ohio where we were not exposed to military bases. I was a little disappointed when I actually saw the facility at Oakdale; not at all what I imagined. The military clothing store was smaller than my kitchen. They had a few (very few) Class A's we were to try on, and then tell the lady what size to order for us, likewise boots, pumps for Class A's, blouses, BDU's, T-shirts, etc, etc. Being officers, we had to pay for nearly everything we were required to have. Since it was my hard-earned money, I didn't allow myself to be talked into ordering what size I thought might fit. One of the others, Donna, and I made a road trip to Fort Drum overnight a few weeks later, where we found a military clothing store about the size of our local K-mart. The sales clerk there was extremely helpful, advising us to try on every Class A in our respective sizes (no small feat; I probably tried on over 50 jackets,) and, upon deciding upon one that really fit, then we started down the row of skirts and slacks to find the same manufacturer as our chosen jackets, then matched colors outside in the sunlight, then tried on the several winners in each category before deciding on our purchases. Now THAT's the way to buy Class A uniforms! Not the Oakdale way!!!! I can't imagine anyone actually allowing themselves to be pressured into buying something that important by "guessing" what might fit based on how the jacket 3 sizes too small fit. Needless to say, I have not returned to Oakdale. I used to be able to go to Wright-Patterson BX occasionally; now I'm unable to go anywhere overnight due to pets. I used to travel extensively. I was assigned to Letterman Army Medical Center during the first Gulf War, and then to Fort Ord and Madigan , and I always drove to my 2-week active duty assignments. I enjoyed staying overnight at military bases en transit when able; it was cost effective. I quickly learned that Air Force bases provide much nicer VOQ's for much less money than Army posts, and the Navy didn't like Army Reservists!
So, bottom line, thanks for bringing up old memories. Maybe someday I'll actually try to find Oakdale just to revisit.

Unknown said...

WOW, I can't believe I found this article.

I was stationed at that base from early 1964 until Sept., 1965. I served in the "Signal Missile Master Support Detachment"(SMMSD) as a 'radar display equipment maintenance technician'; 'up on the hill' in a building that housed all kinds of outmoded radar tracking equipment. We 'boys' kept that old equipment in operation; no enemy planes ever got through to Pittsburgh while we were there. We 'boys' were enlisted men of ages 18 to 21 or 22, and were the real maintenance workers of that old equipment.

Indeed, it was a small base. Most of us had gone through extensive training at large bases, such as Ft. Bliss, TX. We were all quite surprised (shocked, disappointed, actually) to see how small the "base" was. It couldn't even be designated as a fort, so one of my buddies thought it should be named 'Fart Oakdale', and so it was, to us. Not much for entertainment. There was a small PX, an NCO club and an Officers club, and a commissary. One had to be at least E-4 to go into the NCO club. E-3’s and below were left on their own to find entertainment, which usually consisted of finding a ride or bus to Carnegie, or one of the other towns, or downtown Pittsburgh. Staying on base meant sitting in the little PX coffee shop and drinking tap beer. (oh, there was also a juke box).

Yes, we were asked to march in 4th of July parades , and to serve as honor guards at military funerals, in nearby towns.

Nothing secretive about the base; public roads went right on through the place. People could drive right on inside if they wanted. No underground scientific activities; not that I was aware of.

Except for the folks in the immediate locale, very few people in the Pittsburgh area were aware of the base's existence. In fact, most were quite surprised to hear that Pittsburgh had an air defense site.

I left there in Sept, 65, The last I heard, before I departed, was that the old equipment was going to be replaced with newer, more modern and much smaller equipment, and the main building would probably be demolished.

Thank you for your posting of the post’s history.

Lmenard4dmm said...

Ah, the mysteries that surround the memories of Ft. Oakdale. I too served at the lonely outpost in the 60's. In those days it was spit and polish along with the serious business of maintaining the air defenses and associated equipment for the mid-Atlantic states. I remember KP, barracks inspections, and in general, noises from some 50 to 100 active duty Army and Air force personnel stationed there. As I read about its current status I can't help feel that it has become sort of a Flanders Field for the ghosts of all of us that spent time there.

Unknown said...

Yea my father worked there I think late 60's until he retired in the late 90's.That place was really special in my heart.My father did the bust of commander Kelly when they changed the base name to Kellys base.My fathers name was Russell.P.Baroni.Still upset they closed the base down and open a new one in moon which still should of held the same name.If my dad was still alive he would of fought for that place to stay open.I met alot of good people that work there and miss them all god bless you all and always thank you all for serving and protecting us.Russ

Massmac said...

p2otoole, you still out there?
I was in the same outfit, SMMSD Fort Oakdale, at the same time.
Got out in August, '65. Maintained the equipment you didn't:
Sage and power, TDDL and FUIF.

Elmer Falcone Jr. said...

As a Active Duty Military Veteran in 1957: I was separated Honorably in approx.1962, and a short time, in later years, I was assigned to (C.E. KELLY) the Oakdale Army Post, under the Post Provost Marshal, as an Ofc. with the Military Affairs Div. (Post Security) for a few years, and enjoyed, and felt Honored, to Serve under this Post Command. The 99TH ARCOM UNIT was assigned at this post also. " A GREAT ASSIGNMENT ".


Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon this installation during one of many trips to Pittsburgh many years ago. I wondered if it still existed. Sadly, no. The US has yet to learn to preserve stuff (though, admittedly, maybe not everything should be).
Great to learn that new PX/commissary facilities were constructed at PGHIAP.