By Scott Prater
Former Denver Broncos team captain Karl Mecklenburg toured Schriever June 4 and it was hard to tell who benefitted most, Mr. Mecklenburg, or the many Bronco fans here who hold fond memories of the six-time pro bowler’s playing days.
Mr. Mecklenburg brought a troop of Littleton-area Boy Scouts along for the tour, which included stops at the 2nd and 3rd Space Operations Squadrons, the base armory, its power plant and new housing area community center, where he signed photos and met with base members.
Every stop along the way serious fans greeted the Bronco defensive great with that familiar look of shock and awe.
“I’m really happy that I can come meet and support our troops,” he said. “To me that’s a great benefit. It’s also great that we could tie the two together, supporting troops and providing an exposure of space systems to our kids.”
Fiftieth Space Wing Vice Commander, Col. Kenneth Allison welcomed the group as they assembled in a Building-300 conference room. Capt. James Roberts began the tour with a graphic-assisted presentation on the capabilities of the wing.
He spoke to a captive audience.
The scouts, attentive and inquisitive as most people might expect, asked questions ranging from the simple to the ultra complex, tasking Captain Roberts to explain the difference between geosynchronous and standard-orbit satellites, for example.
“A lot of what we do with the scouts involves camping and orienteering,” Mr. Mecklenburg said. “We use Global Positioning System receivers during those activities. So, to find out how the armed services utilize the GPS system is kind of neat.”
From there, the group toured the base power plant and armory, where Airmen waited for their chance to meet the Bronco ring-of-fame honoree.
Mr. Mecklenburg, played 11 seasons for the Broncos starting in 1983 and ranks second all-time in Bronco history for quarterback sacks (79.5). Normally a linebacker, he played seven different defensive positions throughout his career and eventually played on three Super Bowl teams.
Upon retiring in 1994, he embarked on a career as a motivational speaker and author.
“To me, motivational speaking is a lot like playing football, and a lot like the work armed services people perform,” Mr. Mecklenberg said. “There’s lots of teamwork, short bursts of really intense stuff, and then you recover and prepare for the next mission.”
The 2nd SOPS awaited the group following a lunch-time break at the Satellite Dish Dining Facility, where more fans eagerly awaited Mr. Mecklenburg’s arrival. The scouts then witnessed an actual mission being operated inside the 2nd SOPS operations center. Operators explained how the computers and monitoring equipment inside the center helped execute command and control functions of some two dozen GPS satellites.
Shawn O’Donnell, a high school senior and one of the scout troop’s leaders, said he participates in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Kennedy High School and hopes to enter the Air Force in the next few years.
“I will definitely consider space as a career field,” he said. “I was actually surprised to find out how close science fiction is to reality here. All of the things they are capable of doing here is kind of mind boggling.”
The tour ended at the base housing community center, where Mr. Mecklenburg signed autographs then posed for photos along with a few gracious fans as his son, Jeff, and his fellow scouts looked on.
“As a father it’s been wonderful, gaining contacts related to football,” Mr. Mecklenburg said. “My kids have been on submarines and aircraft carriers and we’ve been to a lot of places most people don’t get to normally see. As a scouting parent you try to use your contacts to expose the kids to a variety of things. I knew this visit to Schriever was going to be cool for them.”