Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Schriever Sentinel

Vandenberg welcomes 21st SOPS, new facility

Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, the 14th Air Force commander, Col. Wayne Monteith, the 50th Space Wing commander, Lt. Col. Robert Pavelko, 21st Space Operations commander, and Lorna Onizuka, the widow of Col. Ellison Onizuka, an astronaut who perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster cuts a ribbon at the Ellison Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility dedication ceremony July 30.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)

Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, the 14th Air Force commander, Col. Wayne Monteith, the 50th Space Wing commander, Lt. Col. Robert Pavelko, 21st Space Operations commander, and Lorna Onizuka, the widow of Col. Ellison Onizuka, an astronaut who perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster cuts a ribbon at the Ellison Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility dedication ceremony July 30. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)

By Senior Airman Steve Bauer

30th Space Wing Public Affairs

Vandenberg hosted a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Ellison Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility here, the new home to the 21st Space Operations Squadron, at 10 a.m. July 30.

Lt. Gen. Larry James, 14th Air Force commander, was the presiding official.

The 21st SOPS is a geographically-separated unit of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. Prior to moving to Vandenberg, the squadron operated at Onizuka Air Force Station, which closed earlier this week after more than 50 years of service.

“I am sure the men and women of the 21st Space Operations Squadron will continue their steadfast dedication to flawless mission operations providing combat effects from space,” said Col. Wayne Monteith, the 50th SW commander.

The 21st SOPS schedules, allocates and configures Air Force Satellite Control Network common user resources; monitors, maintains and updates the status of AFSCN resources; and provides status, configurations and readiness of controlled resources to multiple users and command centers.

The namesake of the 21st SOPS’ new home, Col. Ellison Onizuka, was an astronaut who died aboard Space Shuttle Challenger Jan. 28, 1986. Mr. Onizuka’s widow, Lorna, spoke at the dedication ceremony.

“I have slowly absorbed what you all do,” Mrs. Onizuka said. “Things I admit I did not know. I am tremendously impressed. I sincerely salute all of you for the work that is done here at the 21st SOPS. You do invaluable work to ensure the security of our nation — and we are grateful.”

Construction of the, roughly $40 million, Ellison Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility was made possible by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has been instrumental in the development of this new facility,” said Lt. Col. Robert Pavelko, the 21st SOPS commander. “What they have done is outstanding. We could not do our mission without this building.”

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