Commentary by Lt. Col. Douglas Schiess
4th Space Operations Squadron commander
A few weeks ago I was privileged to welcome home a 4th Space Operations Squadron member from a deployment to Afghanistan. On that day there were several other personnel from other Front Range bases returning as well. Since there was a big group returning and a large welcoming crowd, many other travelers noticed and offered their appreciation and thanks to the returnees. A few travelers even stopped to say thank you to the group welcoming members home. It was a great display of American pride in their military.
As I drove back to Schriever, I thought of the travelers that thanked our group and wondered what they knew about what we do at Schriever. I guessed they did not have the whole picture of the combat effects of satellite communications, position, navigation and timing, Air Force Satellite Control Network access and soon space situational awareness we provide to the joint warfighter. I also guessed they did not know about the many members of Schriever that are deployed forward — the security forces, judge advocates, chaplains, contracting personnel, civil engineers, comptrollers, personnelists, force support personnel, and every other specialty. Even though the travelers at the airport didn’t know all the details, they still showed their appreciation for our service. This got me thinking about how easy it is to forget how critical our mission at the 50th Space Wing is to the joint warfighters. The beautiful Colorado mountains and our ability to drive home to our families each night can lull us into thinking we are separated from our brothers and sisters in harms way across the globe. I knew it could be easy to lose that sense of importance of what we do every day.
When I returned to base I walked into our Satellite Operations Center and saw a crew of dedicated men and women providing the best-ever protected communications to the warfighter. I knew there were other crews at the same time providing communications, navigation, network support and even connecting morale calls home. I wondered if they realized their importance to the joint fight and how critical they are to the warfighters on the land, sea and air.
Then I remembered a situation in 4th SOPS when we experienced an issue with one of our satellites that caused an outage to a Marine unit. Our communications experts were in direct contact with the Marine unit and were helping them work through the issue. 4th SOPS had provided this unit’s communication planner with training prior to their deployment and had built a relationship with them. It took personnel from all of our specialties — space operators, communicators, engineers and maintainers, including military, civilians and contractors to fix the problem. We were able to fix the satellite issue and work with the Combatant Command to bring this unit back online. We were able to stay in communication with them as they worked through bringing their nets back up and made sure all their circuits were configured properly. We verified they had the communication they needed to do their mission. In the end, the Marine unit ended the conversation with a thank you and told us they had to drop the line because they were taking incoming fire. This is why we come to work every day — and similar scenarios happen throughout all of the 50th SW units all the time.
So, as I recently reminded myself, what we do every day is important. I am proud of the men and women from Schriever that make this magic happen every day. As we wrap up 2009 and look to 2010, I charge us all to remember that we need to have excellence in all we do, because those in harm’s way expect and require nothing less.