My search for the truth about UFOs: Part 1 — The First Sighting.
Jeremy D. McGowan
This is Part 1 of a multi-part continuing story of how I ended up searching for the truth about UFOs. Each Part details a significant event, which, at the culmination of the final part, brings me to the present day. I hope you enjoy this trip. Due to a combination of memory loss from PTSD and old age, certain inconsequential details may not be fully accurate, however, the overall story is a depiction of actual events. (Subsequent parts will be published in the forthcoming weeks.)
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” — Carl Sagan
Being born in the early 1970s, I didn’t get to watch Star Trek as it aired; however, my childhood was filled with science fiction as I sat on my grandfather’s sofa and watched those reruns and syndications of “Space: 1999”, “Phoenix Five,” “Timeslip,” “Tomorrow People,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Lost in Space,” “Battlestar Galactica” and a slew of others. My mind filled with endless possibilities regarding our Universe, existence, and reality. I was a sponge, taking in everything I could find.
I watched with amazement as Commander Adama led the makeshift fugitive fleet of the last remnants of the Twelve Colonies of Mankind on a desperate search for the legendary planet Earth. I may have blushed a few times at Erin Gray and laughed at Mel Blanc in “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”; and I believe I remember breaking my ankle jumping off the roof of my grandparents’ porch after watching Lee Majors in “The Six Million Dollar Man” (adjusted for 2022’s inflation, “The 28 Billion Dollar Man.”)
I was enthralled by the ideas of space travel, aliens, alternate realities, and science in general. But things changed. Soon, girls became more fun to look at than the Vogons, and getting my driver’s license meant that I had the freedom to roam and not fill my head with sci-fi fantasies. Soon, I found myself studying psychology in college — and soon after that, the college determined we weren’t a great match.
My first “real” job was at IBM. I just turned 20 years old — had long hair and rode a motorcycle. It wasn’t the standard look of the IBM Men in Black suit required by the employees in 1989. I clashed with management. One day, after a particularly terrible, awful, no-good day at work, while riding my motorcycle home, I saw a giant red sign that said “Armed Forces Recruiting Station.” Quickly changing lanes and most likely cutting off at least a dozen cars, I exited and rode into the parking lot.
With my helmet under my arm, I pulled open the door and strolled down the hallway. To the left and right were different offices. I surveyed each one briefly without slowing down. Nope — I’m not too fond of that uniform. Nope, this one look like Popeye. Noooo, I don’t want to be a coast guard. Nope, that looks too “rigid” — wait, what’s this? Hmmm — decent uniforms, folks look happy, excellent graphics on their signs, and that burrito the guy is eating smells excellent! So, I walked into the US Air Force Recruiters Office and flopped down in the metal folding chair in front of the desk while putting my helmet unceremoniously on the desk. What came next was so fast my head spun:
“You take the ASVAB test in high school?”
-“Um, yeah — I think so.”
“Let me pull your scores.” “Says here you’re qualified for most anything you want. You want intelligence services?”
-“Um, I don’t know what that is.”
“Yeah, ok, you want to be a mechanic on fighters?”
-“Ehhh, not really — not my thing.”
“Ok, you tell me what you want to do.”
-“Well, I just kinda want to shoot guns and blow stuff up.”
“Gotcha, ok, well, how about Security Police?”
-“Sounds good — let’s do that.”
The next thing I knew, I was getting a physical exam and enrolled in DEP. The recruiter explained that this was the Delayed Entry Program — and I could finish having fun over the summer and relax and show up to the recruiter now and then until my training slot came up. However, maybe a week went by after the physical, and I got a call to be sent to basic training immediately.
“Well, shit,” I thought. This changes everything. But off I went.
After basic training, I ended up in Security Police Technical School — and then was assigned to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, the 23rd Flying Tigers / 23rd SPS. But, unfortunately, Desert Storm had kicked off, and I was only state-side at Pope for a few weeks before my first deployment to the Middle East. Overall, I ended up spending two and a half years in that sandbox on multiple deployments as well as extensive time in the jungles of Columbia and “elsewhere” in South America. I’d had enough. At the end of my first four years, I decided to move from active duty to the USAF Reserves. One weekend a month and two weeks a year seemed the perfect thing for me. I could get back to my home, relax, and ride my motorcycle, and as long as I kept my hair short and stayed in a moderately decent shape, I was golden.
However, it would seem the Universe had different plans for me. My phone rang as I was comfortably plopped down on my sofa, watching TV and eating popcorn. “Hello?”, “Hey Mac, got a question for you,” said the familiar voice of my prior active duty deployment coordinator. “We’ve got something you may be interested in — you want to go back to the sandbox?” “For how long, where, and when?” I said very casually. “Can’t discuss it over the phone. How soon can you be back at base?” he inquired. “Sarge, I’m currently up in West Virginia; I’m not even due for my drill until a month from now,” I replied. “Look, if you want this, get your ass back here, come see me. You’ve got 48 hours to be here,” he said anxiously and hung up the phone.
I sat back down on the sofa, finished my popcorn, and spaced out for the remainder of whatever I was watching. I remember vividly walking to the bathroom, tossing the buttery napkin in the trash on my way and splashing water on my face, and staring into the mirror for what felt like an eternity. I can’t remember exactly when I made a choice, but it was made, and I soon found myself with my C-bag and duffle driving from West Virginia back to Pope Air Force base.
A tremendous amount of paperwork, new equipment issues, some training fulfillment, EPRs, and some clearance documents had to be accomplished over the rest of the week after arriving back on base. I didn’t feel like anything was happening — just a lot of hurrying up and waiting. I was housed back in my old barracks (and yes, for the Army and Marine folks reading this, it was more like private college dorm rooms — I can’t help you all signed on the wrong dotted line.)
Then the call came. “Mac, grab your bag and head to Green Ramp — you’ll meet the other nine folks there and you’ll get on the C-141.” “Roger that.” Nothing else was said. Now, I have to tell you I was, at this point, fully convinced this was just a training exercise. The sense I got since the initial phone call in West Virginia to the “hurry up and wait” and the slew of paperwork didn’t feel rushed at all — it was just military status quo and commensurate with the tempo of every other major exercise I’d ever participated in.
On the plane I went, I remained convinced this was just another exercise and that I’d been “invited” to participate so they wouldn’t lose an active-duty body to a time suck. However, slowly, I would reach a very different conclusion. In the numerous staged readiness exercises, I participated in previously, the ops tempo was identical — get on the plane, dump your gear onto the floor of the cargo bay, get inspected — “yep, you have two canteens, eight pairs of socks, your compass, and a change of underwear. Congratulations, you’re good!” Then, the aircraft you were on would be making high-altitude circles in a holding pattern until everyone was inspected, and the readiness exercise IG would certify that the unit passed. Then the plane would land, and we’d all go home and have a beer and complain about the whole process being ridiculous and how Airman “snuffy” once again packed dirty underwear and had vodka in his canteen.
But soon, things changed. The aircraft wasn’t in a constant holding pattern — and we were aloft for a lot longer than ever before. It became very apparent that we were heading somewhere. The flight crew wouldn’t talk to us, and none of the other nine of my team had any idea what was happening. We were heading somewhere, and none of us knew where or why. Then we landed. In Delaware. Dover Air Force Base, Deleware, to be exact. The thought amongst myself and the rest of the team was a collective “WTF?!”
The next thing that happened was even more surreal. We were transported to the other side of the flight line and there we were instructed to board a C-5 Galaxy. Climbing into the aircraft with the other nine of my team I noticed that we weren’t alone. Already on the aircraft were several dozen very somber-looking folks in a variety of desert camouflage uniforms. Being stationed at Pope AFB, I was very accustomed to the special ops folks in uniform with scraggly beards and non-traditional gear. Pope was in the center of Ft. Bragg and maintained training for Rangers, Seals, Green Berets, and JSOC. Being attached to JSOC support, I’d deployed with some of these folks previously. But this, this was different. They wouldn’t even look at us as we found our seats and stowed our gear.
A C-5 Galaxy is a huge aircraft.
You can see the enormity of the aircraft in the photo above. There are typically two levels. The top-level with the seats and the bottom for the cargo. After picking out some places for my butt and ruck, I decided that the reward-facing seats weren’t conducive to my desire to not vomit, so I crawled down into the cargo bay, found a pallet of gear with some loose strapping, and made myself a hammock for the duration of what would be the longest flight I’ve ever endured.
At that point in my military career, I was an M-203 gunner. This is the M-16 rifle with an attached grenade launcher. I had my weapon, but no ammunition while on the flight. I hadn’t even been issued ammo prior to departing Pope, which was one of the contributing factors to me thinking it was an exercise deployment. But that soon changed as well.
The flight lasted a lifetime. At least, my team had no indication of where we were going as the other soldiers, seals, and airmen didn’t really appear conversational. As I was in the cargo bay of the C-5 napping and just trying to keep myself occupied, I could see a lot of the equipment which had been loaded. There were JSOC dune buggies, weapons crates, pallets of bottled water, and an extraordinary amount of satellite communication gear. This felt less and less like a mobility exercise and more like a well-coordinated and planned operation. But for what, I had zero ideas. But what was going to happen next clued me in…a bit.
Now, keep in mind that at this point I’d spent over 2 and a half years in the middle east and a long time in the jungles of South America — I’d been dropped in, flown in, driven in, and walked into locations that were less than desirable. But when the C-5 started diving into a near-vertical corkscrew, my makeshift pallet hammock wasn’t going to cut it. Making my way back up the ladder to the top deck and strapping in, I could feel the massive beast of an airplane start to pull out of the steep descent corkscrew and dive. Now, while commercial airliners come in at around 3 degrees to provide a nice, gentle landing for the passengers, the Air Force was perfectly fine with coming in at what felt like 60 degrees. At what felt like what should have been the moment of death, the pilot pulled up, and the landing gear slammed onto the runway. Full brakes were then applied, forcing everyone into the back of their rear-facing seats as the slats opened and the plane was thrown into full reverse. Inertia was not my friend that day as a metric ton of loose gear and water bottles, radios, and bags began to attack my face. When everything stopped, I checked to make sure I was still in one piece and not covered in vomit and got up as I was very anxious to see where we were.
I heard the cargo bay doors begin to lower, and the motorized pallet winches move the crates out of the airplane. Climbing down the ladder back into the cargo bay, I saw sand out the cargo doors. “Lovely,” I thought. “Well, at least Sarge was right about going back to the sandbox again.” My team linked up on the tarmac, and the 10 of us just stood around with our weapons and gear, thinking, “Now what?” That’s when everything finally became a reality to the strangeness of this deployment.
We were standing off to the side of the C-5 when a scruffy man in a uniform approached us with no patches, markings, or rank. He knew our names. We were directed to a clamshell structure and told to sign in and get our incoming briefing. We humped over to the clamshell and were immediately told to take a seat and don’t ask questions. It was just my team and the scruffy unidentified man in the tired and unmarked uniform. It must have been his twin brother who started the briefing as it looked as if they shared the same beard and patchless/rankless uniform choices.
The briefing commenced with a single statement; “Welcome to Jordan,” Mr. rankless stated. “Ok,” I thought, “At least now I know where we are, but why are we here” I muttered. “You are now participating in Operation Elipse Foxtrot, a joint services exercise. Your team is tasked with the security of various depots and remote sites supporting this exercise,” stated Mr. Patchless. “Exercise my ass,” I thought. This was no exercise. This was a full-blown operation in Jordan — but I had no idea why or for how long. It was undeniable that this was anything but an exercise. Confirming my suspicions my team was separated. This never happens — we train as we fight, we fight as we train, and knowing the guy’s reactions and personalities to your left and right is as important as knowing how much ammo you have and where you put your eight pairs of socks. It’s paramount to combat survival, and splitting up a team is just something that isn’t done. But it was done. To this day, I don’t know where the rest of my team went or what their duties were, but I vividly remember mine.
I was issued 240 rounds of 5.56 ammunition for my M-16 and given 18 rounds of HEDP grenades for the M-203. HEDP means “high-explosive, dual purpose.” It’s designed to penetrate at least 2 inches into steel armor and causes casualties within a 130-meter radius. Not anything used during an “exercise.” I was then transported to my post. This was a significant distance into the Jordanian desert. I couldn’t even tell if we were still on that Jordanian military base or if we had just traveled into Indiana Jones territory. There was nothing but sand, some rocks, a few dunes, and some tire tracks for as far as the eye could see. Then, it appeared — a tent — a sizeable beige tent — in the middle of the desert. We slowed and stopped a few dozen meters before the tent. I was told this was my post and that I’d be there for several days. There was a latrine, a pallet of water, MREs, the tent, and one other USAF Security Police officer that I did not recognize.
I can’t remember if a Captain or a Major came out of the tent and told us what we were to be doing, but he walked us around the side of the tent and showed us an enormous wooden crate. The crate was large enough to house a car. It had no markings, placards, or anything to identify its content. “This is your priority. Don’t get near it. Don’t let anyone else get near it.” That was it. There were no written SOPs, no rules of engagement, no maps, nothing — just the order to not get near it and not let anyone else get near it. Not even a definition of what “near” means.
“Sir, what do we do if someone does get near the crate?” I asked.
“Shoot them” was the very severe and blunt reply.
Yep. 100%, not an exercise.
The other USAF Security Police officer and I would take the night shift. During the day, a truck would come, pick us up, take us to the mess hall for chow, and then we’d hump to our quarters, get a shower, sleep, and do it again the next night.
Now the mess hall was where things as if it were possible, got a little more strange. Military comradery is a universal constant. We rib, laugh at each other, mess with each other, and talk — my God, do we talk. But the mess hall was very low-key. Groups sat on their own and didn’t consort with anyone from any other group. I looked around and saw people from the Army Rangers, Naval Special Warfare, a slew of the command staff, and even people from the FBI were there. However, the one thing that struck me was a handful of folks from the US Department of Energy wearing desert uniforms and looking fully out of place with designer glasses, expensive watches, civilian-style briefcases, and satchels. Everyone else, well, I’d seen their kind and served with them on other deployments throughout the Middle East but never had I seen anyone from the DoE.
The nights on post were about as dull as watching golf. There was no one around. The tent was off-limits to me and the other security police officer. We only had our weapons, water, MREs, night vision goggles, and time. We stared at the crate. Boredom set in. I ended up crawling up on the crate, standing on the crate, sitting on the crate, and even pissing on the corner of the crate. Then the novelty of that even tapered off. Back then, as it was another life, I smoked. I smoked a lot. Now, obviously, I couldn’t smoke around my post, the crate, or the tent, so I started to meander a few hundred meters into the desert where I wasn’t visible but could still keep an eye on that mysterious crate while feeding my nicotine addiction.
Walking up a small dune, I sat down and lit up. I could survey the whole area from where I was. The desert night was cool, crisp, and completely cloudless. I looked up and could see more stars than I ever thought possible. This was a restricted flight zone, so there was absolutely no aircraft anywhere near the vicinity of my post. The Milkyway was visible to my east, and Draconids was just about centered to my north. The night sky was amazing. As I stayed perched there on the dune, the other security police officer walked up, plopped down near me, and lit up his cigarette. He was smoking middle eastern Bidi cigarettes. They are small, hand-rolled cigarettes wrapped in a tendu leaf. There was no reason to head back anytime soon as there was no one around the area, and we could see for thousands of meters in all directions. So, I laid back on the dune and stared at the night sky. Eventually, I remembered that I had a set of night vision goggles in my pack. They were the best the military had at that time — a pair of ANV/PVS-7Bs; dual eyepiece/single imaging tube. With those, you get approximately a 40-degree field of view, but looking at the night sky, you can see millions upon millions of more stars than with your naked eye. I spent about 10 minutes staring up in wonder, gazing at the stars, meteorites, and a few passing satellites, before my entire idea of reality would be forever changed.
That’s when it happened. The event would rock my perception of the world and simmer in the back of my head for another 24 years before I did anything about it. I saw something that I couldn’t explain. As I lay on my back gazing at the stars through the night vision goggles, I witnessed a bright pinpoint of light coming from my 6 o’clock, traverse to top-dead-center over my head, affect a 90-degree left-hand turn and shoot off to my 9 o’clock. Then it happened again. And again. And again. It repeated every few seconds over the course of a minute or two. There was no decrease in speed. There was no arc to its turn. It maintained constant velocity before, through, and after the 90-degree turn. It traversed from horizon to horizon in less than 2 seconds. It made no discernable noise. Through the NVGs, I couldn’t tell If it had any color, as everything appears in shades of green, but it was brighter than the brightest star. I took off the NVGs and handed them to my smoking buddy.
“Here, take a look at this,” I said.
“What am I looking for?”
“You’ll know it when you see it.”
He took the NVGs, put them on and adjusted the focus, and stared up. A minute or two passed with no reaction — then I saw him move his head down and to the left fast enough to pinch a nerve. Then, without saying a word, he took off the goggles, handed them back to me, reached into his ammo pouch, pulled out another Bidi cigarette, lit it up, and walked back towards the crate. He never spoke of it the remainder of the time we were on post.
I couldn’t alert anyone to what we had seen as we had walked away from our area of responsibility to smoke a cigarette, and it would have been disastrous for us to admit what we were doing when we saw what we saw. Nothing was ever said again about that night.
The crate, for years, remained a mystery to me. Though I had suspicions about its contents, I was never able to verify it while in Jordan. The contents of that crate and the nature of that exercise weren’t fully realized by me for another 24 years.
Part 2, to be written and published in a few days, will detail the information I found which solidified, to me, the validity of this sighting of what I now consider to be a UFO. Be sure to subscribe to this account to be notified when Part 2 is released. Parts 3 and 4 will discuss what I’ve been doing about this over the past 2 years and how I ended up with UAPx (www.uapx.space) — a non-profit scientific research organization dedicated to studying Unknown Aerial Phenomena.
EDIT: Part 2 can be found here: https://uapx-media.medium.com/my-search-for-the-truth-about-ufos-part-2-wtf-just-happened-e18e22fe4bf0