by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo — As a young basic training Airman in 1986, Master Sgt. Micheal Meyer was about to go boldly where no other enlisted troop had gone – space operations.
Back then, Air Force Space Command was only four years old and the job of commanding and controlling satellites had been done by officers.
“I was one of the first enlisted to command and control satellites,” said Sergeant Meyer, 21st Operations Group noncommissioned officer in charge of standardization.
In April, Sergeant Meyer officially retires as one of the longest serving space operators in Air Force Space Command. He will have served 25 years in the U.S. Air Force.
“We lose an irreplaceable source of knowledge and wisdom,” said Maj. Penny Haspil, 21st OG deputy chief of standardization and evaluation.
Space operations has changed dramatically since 1986, said Col. Nina Armagno, 21st OG commander. Today’s space operators help in the defense of our homeland by warning of incoming missiles and tracking every object in space, she said. And, enlisted space operators are the backbone of the business.
“What we are doing today was barely conceived of in 1986,” she said. “In our community, space operations equipment has changed from Cold War era systems to rapid reaction high-tech systems. Our space operators, like Master Sgt. Meyer, are at the core of this transformation – thinking of and employing their radars, optical telescopes, and communications systems as weapons systems.”
In 1986, Ronald Reagan was president, U.S. Space Command was one year old and personal computers were just coming into vogue when Sergeant Meyers was starting out in space operations, he said. He worked on big, specially built, mono-colored green screened computers that filled entire rooms.
While the technology has advanced, he said, the mission has remained the same: missile warning, space control and space surveillance.
“Being in space, you knew what was going on in the rest of the world,” Sergeant Meyer said.
In 1993, Sergeant Meyer became a training instructor at Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska, where he encouraged young Airmen to “take time to learn about the system you are working with and have fun.”
Sergeant Meyer knew and loved his profession, and contributed to its maturation, Major Haspil said.
“Space operators have what can be a thankless job; when our systems operate nominally, it’s easy to forget it is not without effort,” she said. “Systems may be more capable and complex than they were in 1986, but their importance as a force multiplier and their dependence on space professionals like Master Sgt. Meyer hasn’t changed.”
Sergeant Meyer’s career has taken him to Nebraska, Alaska, North Dakota and Colorado. He said joining the Air Force was the best decision he’s ever made and he hopes “anything related to space” is in his future as he moves to the next phase of his career as a civilian.
“There is always something happening in the world where space operators are always needed,” he said.