Last updated: January 2, 2018
- Mr. Pavek was hired as a civilian employee of the Air Force in 1984 as a missile facilities engineer. His office was responsible for the maintenance of the 15 remotely located Launch Control Facilities and 150 missile silos. In the early 90s, Mr. Pavek oversaw the deactivation and demolition proceedings of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing’s facilities in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991. It was in this role that he served as custodian of the Delta-01 and Delta-09 sites for the decade before the park was established.
- Place of Birth:
- Aberdeen, South Dakota
Tim Pavek is a South Dakota native, who was born in Aberdeen and grew up in the Rapid City area. Mr. Pavek was hired as a civilian employee of the Air Force in 1984 as a missile facilities engineer. His office was responsible for the maintenance of the 15 remotely located Launch Control Facilities and 150 missile silos. His duties included facility engineering, maintenance troubleshooting, improvement projects and repairs on all missile support facilities. In the early 90s, Mr. Pavek oversaw the deactivation and demolition proceedings of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing’s facilities in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991. He also testified before Congress concerning legislation to create Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.
Mr. Pavek was interviewed for the park's oral history collection in May 1999 and February 2015. Below are several excerpts from his 1999 interview:
Growing up, what knowledge did you have of missiles in South Dakota?
Probably my earliest recollections are my father was in the hardware business which is how we got out here, and I remember some amateur baseball teams we had here. There was the Chiefs, which was a Rapid City team here. Then Sturgis had the Titans. That was named after a Titan missile site that was up there. Last I drove by that [school], the model of the Titan missile is still visible from the interstate as you pass through Sturgis. But that was a very casual knowledge of there being missiles out here. I also remember from the hardware business that he had a case full of Stare tools and a Dymo tape marking machines. To label things with. They’ve gone mass marketing. But back then that was a rather new, sort of exclusive product and very expensive at that point. But I vaguely recall him talking about this coming in and being used in the missile field where all the construction that was going in the early ‘60s. But I really didn’t connect it with national defense activity in the way I do now. It was just something that was going on here and had a big impact.
You came to Ellsworth in 1984 as a missile facilities engineer. Can you tell us what the mission of a facilities engineer was?
Our tasking was to provide the facility engineering, maintenance, trouble shooting improvement projects, repairs for the real property that supported the missile itself. It was unique in the Air Force in that the Civil Engineering activity was tied so closely to the weapon system. They divided the weapon system into the aerospace ground equipment, or the operational ground equipment, and the RPI or Real Property Installed equipment. That line was very close, in fact in some cases it was blurred. So we worked real closely with our counterparts in the missile wing, their tech engineering, who did a similar type of activity for the missile itself and we then supported them with the electrical supply system, the structural facilities, the grounds and so forth.
Did you see yourself, your mission, and the mission of the 44th Missile Wing as serving the interests of national security?
Oh, there was no question of that. When you look at our defense policy that was embodied in the Triad, which consisted of the sea-launched ballistic missiles, the land-based nuclear bombers, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, we were one leg of a three-legged stool. And very important. Then to trickle it down, you very often hear people say that everybody in the organization is important. It’s easy to look at the real visible people, whether it’s the All-Star slugger or the president of this, the president of that. But really it gets down to, like I said, if the sump pump doesn’t work and the capsule floods, this capsule is no good and it would go MICAP, or “Mission Incapable.”
So, literally, you could have a capsule that would be mission incapable and it could be that way for an inoperative toilet just as it could be for a computer that controlled the missile. So when you saw that go MICAP, or got a call late at night, or stopped by on the way home.
On one occasion I stopped by a Launch Control Facility to look at something in particular, and I don’t remember what, but the emergency shut-off valve in the bottom of the capsule had been tripped, which meant the wastewater, the drain water, the sewage or whatever, was starting to back-up into the capsule. I had my dress shoes on, but you know, I crawled down there and sort of fished down through there and got that open and got that drained. If I wouldn’t have, they would have had to dispatch somebody from the base to send out or else send the capsule crew out of there.
Did it ever bother you, the idea that these missiles were capable of destruction on a scale and scope that is almost beyond imagination?
Well, yeah. You really wondered whether or not, but you had to recognize that here was the other side who had these awesome weapons and they had promised that they would bury us. So, when it comes down to “us versus them,” people are forced to do a lot of things that might be against their nature.
I remember when I was a little boy in bed here on a hot summer night with the windows wide open and I’d hear the distant rumble of the B-52s here at Ellsworth taking off. [I] almost lay in bed shaking, wondering if that was a practice mission and they’d come back or if this was the real thing and within a few minutes we’d see the fireballs of nuclear weapons over western South Dakota. So, having lived next to this Air Force base, we knew that we were a big red-and-white bull’s eye on the Soviet map, or that was my perception at the time. That was in the back of my mind that this could be the way that the world would end. And so it really wasn’t a tough decision to become a part of deterring that from happening.
Did you get the sense that people involved in the missile business really had faith in the quality of our weaponry? Of our missiles?
I would say for the most part they did. I’ve heard other people say that, nah, they probably wouldn’t have gone off. Or they would have fizzled off part way there. You know, you really don’t know. I guess the bottom line is the mission was deterrence and whether or not they worked or not is a moot point because they could do their job without ever having to fire a shot.