By Scott Prater
When Col. (ret) Michael Dickey took command of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron here during May of 2000, one of the first goals he made for the squadron was to strengthen links to its heritage units.
“We connected with some members of the 3rd Photographic Squadron (World War II era) and hosted a few of their reunions while I was commander,” he said. “It was important to me to keep that connection alive.”
Fast forward to June 10, 2011.
Led by Lt. Col. Jean Eisenhut, 3 SOPS commander, the squadron celebrated its 70th Anniversary with 3 SOPS Heritage Day. Colonel Dickey was here yet again, as one of 40 alumni to attend the celebration and ceremonial ribbon cutting for the squadron’s new heritage room.
“Today, it’s exciting to see how 3 SOPS continues to recognize service of our country across generations,” he said. “And it was great talking to today’s 3 SOPS Airmen. It amazes me how smart they are and how much they do. It makes me feel like the squadron is still in excellent hands.”
Colonel Eisenhut kicked off the day’s festivities by speaking first about the history of the squadron, which transitioned from early World War II photographic reconnaissance missions to long-range photographic reconnaissance and, eventually, into satellite control and operations.
The squadron has moved geographically five times throughout its history from air bases in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Guam and finally to Falcon AFB, later renamed Schriever AFB.
Yet, through all its moves, Colonel Eisenhut said 3 SOPS has continued to perform a vital role to our joint war fighters in conflicts ranging from World War II to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Along the way, 3 SOPS assumed operations of NATO III and Defense Satellite Communications System satellites before finally incorporating today’s Wideband Global SATCOM command and control.
Col. Michael Mason, 50th Space Wing vice commander, Chief Master Sgt. Randy LaCombe 50 SW command chief and Colonel Dickey then joined Colonel Eisenhut in cutting a ceremonial ribbon, officially dedicating the new 3 SOPS Heritage Room.
Alumni then toured the 3 SOPS operations floor and heritage room and later joined current squadron members for an afternoon barbecue at the base picnic area.
“The heritage day was absolutely fantastic,” Colonel Eisenhut said. “I was thrilled by the participation of the alumni and the opportunity for squadron members to connect with them. We had two former 3 SOPS commanders here, Colonel Dickey and Lt. Col. Keith Hinson. We also had Col. (Ret) Vito Pagano, who was a major contributor to the standing up of the original 3rd Satellite Control Squadron and we were privileged to have Chief LaCombe and Airman 1st Class Les Brown participate as the most senior and most junior enlisted alums.”
The concepts of legacy and heritage are not lost on Colonel Dickey, who said he felt energized visiting with today’s 3 SOPS Airmen. The ideas hold special significance for Colonel Eisenhut as well as she works through the last month of her command in the squadron.
“Tradition is important,” she said. “This event highlights our current members, those who are building the foundation of their Air Force careers, how important their contribution is to our mission and our Air Force, and that it does not go unnoticed. They are leaving a legacy.”