Upon being deployed to South Florida in October 1962, Battery A established its operations in a tomato field five miles west of Florida City just outside the entrance to Everglades National Park (ENP).It would later be joined by Battery B which co-located the following summer. Battery A relocated to a permanent site inside Everglades National Park in the summer of 1965.
When the Army decided to make its South Florida missile sites permanent in early 1963, to keep costs down, the military looked for sites already in federal government ownership. The Army wanted to move Battery A to a site inside the Everglades National Park (ENP) boundary. ENP personnel first learned of this in March 1963 when park rangers encountered four military officers in civilian clothes in an unmarked car in the Hole-in-the-Donut scouting locations. The park superintendent quickly notified the National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta and the matter soon had reached the highest levels in Washington. The NPS did not want this incompatible use within the park boundary but the Army had an ace up its sleeve. The 700 acres that the Army needed was part of the 4,400 acres that had come into Farmers Home Administration ownership when the Iori tomato-growing operation went bankrupt.
The construction site for Battery A lay toward the end of Long Pine Key Road (now Research Road). By April 1964, the Army Corps of Engineers had begun construction of the site. Limestone for building pads and protective berms was obtained on-site, leaving borrow pits that filled with water and became ponds.The high water table in the Everglades meant that missiles could not be kept underground as they were on most other missile sites within the US, but had to be stored in above-ground shelters.
The high points of Battery A’s history, which followed the move to permanent sites, consisted in the degree of excellence to which it attained during its inspections. However, no event in the succeeding years approached the magnitude of the deployment to Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Battery A established a high standard of performance and from time-to-time set records which placed them among the very best in ARADCOM. The standard measuring stick was the ARADCOM “Combat E” award, presented to units which reached established standards in OREs, CMMIs, SNAP, and TPIs, all considered, and averaged together.
In recognition of their accomplishments, the soldiers of Battery A could attach the “E” award streamer permanently to the Battery A guidon. This “E” award streamer illustrated the fact that the Nike soldiers of Battery A managed to sustain a high level of performance over a very long period despite the inherent hardships presented by duty in the Everglades. Battery A was not the only outstanding unit among the missile troops of South Florida as other 2nd/52nd firing batteries were awarded various achievement awards. However, Battery A became the first and only Nike Hercules battery in ARADCOM history to win the “E Award” in four consecutive years, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.
In 1967 Battery A was the only battery in 13th Artillery Group to receive the E Award. Battery A was applauded by the rest of the battalion as the streamers were affixed to its guidon by such notables as Maj. General Carl Darnell, Jr., Commanding General of the 5th Region in August of 1966 and in 1967 and by Maj. General Melville B. Coburn, Commanding General of the First Region in 1968.
In 1969, the battery was congratulated by Lt. General George V. Underwood, the Commanding General of ARADCOM, with the presentation of the “E Streamer.” This was accompanied by the Runner-Up Award in the annual ARADCOM Commanders Trophy competition. The trophy was awarded for the unit’s performance during the previous year when it was the only active Army Nike Hercules battery to be considered for the award. Battery A, as the 5th Region’s candidate, stood fifth among the 116 batteries which were considered for the award.