I'm the Manager of Geological Services for U. S. Gypsum
based at the corporate headquarters in Chicago, but I work with
geological and mining engineering projects for all of USG's mining
operations. Unofficially, I'm a collector of information on USG's
In addition, I make periodic visits to the Midland, CA town/mine site.
We monitor the condition of the old underground mine openings and
whether there are people visiting them.
In 2001, USG entered an agreement with
the U. S. Marines to allow for
the use of part of the old town site for a command post for a
military exercise. I was the company's liaison with the Marines for the
exercise (1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton). A few months later the
Marines deployed to Kuwait and ultimately Iraq. One of the officer's
that I was working with had already been in Afghanistan and said that
the Midland area was very similar in terrain and climate. A few weeks
ago, I heard indirectly, through the Marine's archaeologist, that the
actual conditions encountered during their movement to Baghdad wasn't as
severe as their time in the Midland area.
The portion on the military exercise is fairly important and
USG was approached in late 2001 regarding the use of the old Midland
town site as a command post for a large-scale "command and control"
exercise. The Marines moved over 600 vehicles from Twentynine Palms to
Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. This also involved the construction of a
floating bridge across the Colorado River. The exercise was named
Scimitar" and was covered fairly well in the press. This was a large
"computer simulation" in that there were all types of skirmishes being
simulated within about a 40-mile radius of the old town site. There was a
simulated helicopter assault on the town site. The exercise was to test
ability of the Marines to move rapidly across difficult desert terrain
see how far the lines of communication, command and control could be
stretched. Little did we know that just a few months later the 1st
Division would be deployed to Kuwait and ultimately Iraq. Ms. Barbara
Giacomini, the archaeologist that works with the Marines, told me that
saw some of the same Marines that we were with on a segment of CBS's 48
Hours. The unit shown were the Marine combat engineers and the segment
showed the construction of a floating bridge across the Euphrates River
USG has closed two of its underground mining operations in the last
of years. I worked at the Plasterco, Virginia operation for four years
have been involved with ongoing work there since the mine was completely
closed and the plant was demolished. It is interesting that USG has
operations that are at least 100 years old. The Plasterco, VA and the
Oakfield, NY operations were at least 100 years old. The Alabaster, MI;
Southard, OK; Fort Dodge, IA; and Sweetwater, TX operations are all 100
years or older.
I'm very interested in learning more about the mining history and life
the company towns. I'm very familiar with the Plasterco, VA operation
have scanned many of the old photographs into digital format. I recently
sent some of the photos to a local museum that wanted to do an exhibit
the this Labor Day.