Further Recollections of AO

By: Jim Foley - Past Chief of Security

Written: 11/4/99

When I came to work at American Optical (AO) in February of 1966, there was a permanent guard force of twenty-five (25) men. AO was engaged in classified work with the Department of Defense (DOD), mostly having to do with night vision lenses and fiber optics and, to a much lesser degree, laser research. The guard force was armed with .38 cal Smith & Wesson 4 inch revolvers. The men had no formal training in firearms and one of my duties was to instruct them in firearm safety and I arranged with the local police department for use of their target range.

There were four main traffic posts. The North St. gate, the Crystal St. exit, the personnel office near the rotary and the Lensdale gate. The manufacturing departments were working three shifts which meant these exits had to be manned six days a week to safeguard the employees coming and going to work. In addition, the guard force was charged with patrolling unoccupied buildings throughout the facility as required by both our insurance carriers and the DOD.

The AO paid for all uniforms for the guard force and furnished the dry cleaning. Uniform companies who bid on furnishing uniforms to the AO guard force considered this a lucrative contract as the AO only bought the best and paid promptly. The two cruiser cars used by the guard force were painted black with no markings but were equipped with standard police engines, braking systems and other standard police safety features, and were replaced every two years.

The total acreage of the AO property consisted of 140 acres. Much of this was prime woodland and it was not unusual for the guard force to be called upon to investigate local woodsman who would cut down large oak and pine trees belonging to AO and resell them to builders and craft shops after they were processed at local saw mills.

On a few occasions, the guard force would be called upon to remove an employee who chose to drink his lunch or dinner at a local watering hole and then become obstreperous with his supervisor. These incidents often required the utmost tact and diplomacy. At other times when the employee became belligerent, he would end up on the floor of the back seat of the cruiser, handcuffed, with one guard sitting on top of him and the other guard driving the cruiser to the local lockup.

Jim Foley recollections

Jim Foley recalls John Wells

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