It’s T minus four minutes and holding at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The clock has stopped because weather tracking planes have sensed potential trouble for the planned test flight of the Ares 1-X rocket, the first new rocket designed by the space agency since those produced for use in manned space flight in the 1970s. The launch was already delayed because of bad weather once before, and everyone at the Space Center is anxious to see it go up.
I’m about to head out to the launch pad myself with a box of matches and light the fuse,” jokes Joseph R. Granger, CPP, who is security director of United Space Alliance, the contractor that provides the space shuttle ground support services for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Kennedy Space Center, its facilities in Houston, and its other sites around the world. Granger is the ASIS International president for 2010.
While the countdown clock is stopped, and with the next launch window projected to be a few hours away, Granger talks with Security Management to discuss his career, the influence ASIS has had on it, plus his thoughts on the Society’s and the security industry’s future.
Rocket to the Moon
Granger is a native Floridian who grew up in the small town of Cocoa—then a tiny, sandy hamlet of 5,000 residents; today, a well-heeled independent city of nearly four times that size. Since 1951, when the U.S. Air Force established the Air Force Missile Test Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Cocoa and the surrounding area became engulfed in the emerging space program.
“My dad went to work for the fire department at Cape Canaveral in the early 1950s,” Granger explains. “When I was a kid, we’d know if a rocket was going to launch because my father would be working. Back then, the times of launches weren’t broadcast for military security reasons.”
Many early unmanned test rockets failed, crumpling to the ground amidst fiery explosions. “We’d go outside to watch the rocket blow versus watching the rocket go,” quips Granger.
In the late 1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the purchase of much of Merritt Island, just across the Indian River from Cocoa, and began building a new launch facility. During the Kennedy administration, the construction was finished, and after the assassination of the president who promised mankind would walk on the moon in that decade, the sprawling complex, encompassing 219 square miles, was named in Kennedy’s honor.
Growing up in Cocoa, says Granger, meant that “I was an eyewitness to the launch of Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom on the Redstone rocket, John Glenn on the Atlas rocket—all the way through into the Mercury and Gemini programs, and into Apollo. In July 1969, we launched Apollo 11 to the moon, and I saw that one too. When I was just a young man watching Apollo go up, and as fast as we were going with the space program, if you’d said to me that we wouldn’t be on Mars by 2000, I’d have laughed at you.”
Granger had graduated from high school in 1969, and about three months after the historic expedition to the Moon ended in triumph, Granger joined the U.S. Army. The Vietnam War was in high gear, he says, and “numerous friends of mine and my older brothers had gone in the service. I felt this patriotic urge to go serve my country too.”
Granger scored high on the battery of entrance exams and was offered numerous options for his military career. One of these was army communications intelligence. He spent a year in country during 1970-1971 at Phu Bai, a few miles south of the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. After completing this communication intelligence stint, Granger headed stateside with an Army Commendation medal and a Bronze Star, among other service awards.
Back in Florida, Granger took a series of private-sector jobs, but “within about six months of getting out of the army, I joined the Cocoa Police Department. I stayed there as an officer until October 1980, when I went to work for Wackenhut [later EG&G] at the Kennedy Space Center. They were forming the first SWAT team there as part of the build-up to the shuttle program, and they were looking for certified police officers from the state because, even though it was going to be a private force, the officers would be deputized and have full powers of arrest,” Granger explains.