By Tech. Sgt. Jason Lange
20th Space Control Squadron crew chief
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – January 16, 2009, marked a significant milestone for the men and women of the 20th Space Control Squadron, both past and present.
Former and current site personnel, including past commanders, crew members and civilians, took part in a rededication ceremony, ribbon cutting and dining out to celebrate 40 years of space surveillance dominance for the AN/FPS-85 Phased Array Radar. Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Deppe, Air Force Space Command vice commander, was the guest of honor.
“Participating in the (20th SPCS) 40th anniversary motivated and inspired me,” said General Deppe. “It was quite an experience and an honor to witness firsthand the esprit-de-corps and pride of ownership displayed by the incredible Airmen at Eglin and Det 1.”
In remarks at the site rededication ceremony, Lt. Col. Thomas Falzarano, 20th SPCS commander, emphasized, “For more than four decades, thousands of individuals have contributed their talents and hard work to what many affectionately refer to as Site C-6. From the brilliant minds who designed and constructed the radar, to the men and women who navigated numerous mission changes, and now those who currently stand guard, the site is more than a location on a map. It is a family!”
Radar construction began at Site C-6 here in October 1962. Operational testing was originally scheduled for May 1965, but four months prior, the building and all equipment was destroyed by an electrical fire. In September 1968, the Air Force took ownership of the site with the 20th Surveillance Squadron as the primary operator. Their mission was simple…track satellites.
From 1971 to 1984, the squadron served as the Alternate Space Surveillance Center and provided computational support to Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, Colo. In 1975, new software was installed that enabled the 20 SURS to monitor for submarine- launched ballistic missiles from the Gulf of Mexico. This became the unit’s primary mission, with space surveillance being secondary. In 1988, another page was turned with the first successful track of a deep space satellite.
In February 2003, the unit was re-designated as the 20th SPCS, and in 2004, it assumed responsibility for 20th SPCS Detachment-1, located at Dahlgren, Va., and the AN/FPS-133 Space Surveillance Radar Fence located along the 33rd parallel of the United States.
Today, the 20th SPCS is changing the way they do business once again. With the implementation of numerous innovations, their role in space superiority is moving from what was a reactive model to a proactive mission. These improvements have enabled the team at Eglin to engineer new radar fences and track many satellites that were previously declared impossible to identify. The 20th SPCS remains as relevant to this nation’s security as at any point in history.
“It was an amazing event,” said Airman 1st Class Timothy Lukenbaugh. “General Deppe capped off an incredible week with a speech that inspired us to reach even greater heights in service of our mission and the Air Force – 40 years young and stronger than ever!”