On that Monday morning, I walked into the same stark white lobby of building 213, but this time I was escorted to the office of security. There I was welcomed like a new member of the family and given file after file to read. This was the first time I ever read a document stamped “TOP SECRET”. access to top secret material. I was entering a world of which I had no knowledge. After reading each manual or memorandum, I was asked to sign a statement of secrecy swearing to keep secret the information I had just received and would be receiving in the future. I was being briefed on some of the most sensitive CIA programs in existence at the time. After completing my briefings, I was posed before a plain blue wall and photographed. Within 10 minutes the security officer handed me an identification badge with my picture, name, and identification number. The badge was accented in blue, indicating that I was a fully cleared, full time employee at NPIC. I felt as if I had just joined a very elite club where exciting things were happening. Little did I know. Once the security officer was through, a rotund gentleman with a crew cut and glasses, wearing a white shirt and tie, and sporting a huge smile entered the room and introduced himself as Tom F. He was my immediate supervisor and was taking me to the division where I would be working. As we left the security office, I couldn’t help but notice how easy- going Tom was and how quickly I had been accepted as another member of the crew. We took an elevator to the second floor and entered a suite of offices. The entrance wasn’t typical of any office I had ever seen before. It was a large gray vault door with a tumbler combination lock. Just past it was a second, black steel door with a cypher lock. Tom punched a few numbers into a keypad beside the door and the lock buzzed open. Inside was a typical front-office reception area -- almost. There was a large wooden desk behind which sat a very attractive young lady. Behind her was a row of eight steel file cabinets; some with tumbler locks and others with bars and combination padlocks. She welcomed me and asked me to come back after I got settled so that I could sign for the vault and cypher combinations. She would also show me how to properly open and lock a safe file cabinet. I thanked her and followed Tom into a large open room bordered by offices. His office was immediately to the left. In the rear of the open area were people working at four drafting tables. As we entered Tom’s office, a crowd of people was leaving a nearby conference room. Some in the crowd were Army and Air Force officers. As they left, one of the gentlemen, wearing a white shirt and a very skinny black tie, came walking over to us. “Who’s the new guy, Sarge?” the man asked with a grim on his face. “Bill, this is Paul G. He’s going to be my assistant,” Tom answered. Immediately Bill broke into a full laugh. “Your assistant,” he chuckled. “Sarge, you don’t do anything around here, what’s Paul going to do?” I had just gotten my first taste of NPIC humor and it was delivered by Bill C.; a man with the rare talent of mixing sarcasm and humor into comments that seldom offended anyone. I also realized that few people called Tom anything but Sarge. He had retired from the Air Force and the tag had stuck. Taken back by the blunt remark, I started to wonder if I had, in some unimaginable way, made a big mistake. The truth was five seconds away as a tall, gray-haired gentleman in a dark suit approached our little group. Tom immediately braced into a more formal pose and in a serious voice said, “Lou, this is Paul Grassler, our new clerk.” I reached out and shook the extended hand of Mr. F., our division chief. For all the time I was there, I never felt comfortable enough to call him by his first name. “Welcome aboard, Paul,” said the soft-spoken Mr. F. “We’re glad to finally have you here. There’s a lot of work Tom needs to get done and you’re going to be very busy helping him.” Maybe I hadn’t made a mistake. Maybe there really was work for me to do. “We’ve just finished a briefing and this is the perfect opportunity for you to see what we do,” said Mr. F. as he gestured for us to follow him into the conference room. What came next was beyond my wildest imagination. Bordering the room on three walls was a display of large briefing boards along a shelf similar in height and style to a chair rail. The boards were photographs of places in the Soviet Union and other countries that appeared to be taken from space. “These are some of the images from the latest mission,” said Mr. F. They are satellite photos of military installations in the Soviet Union, China, and other places,” he continued. From that moment on, I knew I would never have a boring or dull day working at NPIC. As for work, Sarge made sure my “to-do” list was always full.
Offices at NPIC were located inside vaulted areas called SCIFs, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities. Inside each SCIF were dozens of heavy steel file cabinets with combination locks. At the end of each day, every safe had to be locked and every drawer of every safe had to be checked and signed-off by the last person leaving that SCIF. Security officers would go around to each office checking for safes left unlocked or drawers left ajar. No one wan-ted to arrive at their office in the morning to find a security violation notice on their desk.  
Light tables used by the analysts and engineers. Few unclassified photographs exist of the equipment used by photo interpreters This picture is of an exhibit set up for the general public.
First successful satellite image was this fuzzy picture of a runway in the Soviet Union.  
Ching Chuan Kang Airbase on mainland China.  
Image of Guanajay IRBM Launch Site is not a satellite photo but one taken by a U-2 aircraft flying over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It’s an early example of an annotated board made by NPIC illustrators. 
It took almost a year and a half of processing before I was able to walk  into the National Photographic Interpretation Center as a federal  employee. Building 213 was to become my new alma mater, three times. 
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