Former Malmstrom Airman reunited with Olympic Arena toolbox

  • Published
  • By John Turner
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

When Don Jones visited Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, in early July, he discovered his artwork is preserved at the base museum. The former master sergeant was reunited with the tool box that he customized for the 1986 Olympic Arena munitions maintenance team.

Jones, who now lives in North Carolina, was 'surprised' to find the toolbox on display, Curt Shannon, museum director, said.

Olympic Arena was the annual competition between missile wings during the Strategic Air Command era, and the precursor to Air Force Global Strike Command's Global Strike Challenge today.

The toolbox, hand-painted and fitted with specially-made handles, was donated to the museum approximately five years ago, Shannon said. Before that, it was the property of the weapons storage area on base. The toolbox was nearly discarded as obsolete equipment before being rescued as a heritage item.

During his visit Jones wrote a four-page, handwritten letter recounting how the toolbox came to be.

"I was first approached by Staff Sgt. Paul Christensen, 341st Strategic Missile Wing Munitions Maintenance (Squadron)" prior to the competition, Jones said.

Christensen showed Jones a copy of Airman magazine with an article about Giant Sword, an aircraft weapons loading competition. One of the photos illustrating the story showed a toolbox depicting a competing team's heritage.

"Sergeant Christensen asked me if I would consider painting the toolbox that they would be using in their competition at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in the coming weeks," Jones said. "I didn't have a clue what I would put on the box. I told him he may end up with just a pretty, shiny black box if I found I could not do it."

Jones stripped all of the original red paint off of the new toolbox, primed it and repainted it to a glossy black. He then coated the box with polyurethane.

"I was able to wipe out anything that I put on there in acrylic paint I didn't like," Jones said. "Then I could start over, leaving the black paint intact."

He began by painting the nuclear triad of land, air and sea operations on the front. He then added information about the team on top and an image of a Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile launching from Montana on the back.

"The rest of the paintings came easy," Jones said.

Jones said that he worked on the toolbox every evening for about two weeks.

"I would come home from work, eat supper, then go back to my section and put in eight more hours," he said. "I told my wife she was beginning to be a toolbox widow."

Jones' neighbor, an aircraft machinist, lathed the handles to look like ICBMs.

"He did a very professional job," Jones said. "I saw that he was recognized for his effort."

Christensen was pleased with the final result, Jones said. And the ornamented toolbox might even have been the 341st SMW team's lucky charm that year.

"When it was all over they won the competition," Jones said.