Commentary by Col. John Shaw
50th Operations Group commander
Of course there’s Langley Air Force Base, home of Air Combat Command and the 1st Fighter Wing. There is Nellis Air Force Base, the Las-Vegas-based host of Red Flag and countless other special flying activities in the vast Nevada desert. There is also Edwards Air Force Base, known as the center for flight test programs from the 1950s to the present. It seems everyone has heard of these special places, and knows where these Air Force bases are. Their fame is well-deserved.
What about this base called Schriever? Where is it, exactly? And what do they do there? Who really knows?
Imagine Alex Trebek reading this on the next Jeopardy show (perhaps under the category “Places Named for Great Generals”): “The Global Positioning System, with billions of users around the world and deeply integrated into the fabric of human society, is operated from this Air Force Base.” How would the contestants fare on that one?
The truth is, our warfighters, our nation’s security, and, yes, even human society — all depend greatly upon the activities performed day in and day out within this 21st century base at this special place where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains, about eight miles east of Colorado Springs, Colo. It’s not just GPS. Airmen at Schriever also operate the nation’s military satellite communications systems — providing a central nervous system for our military as well as our national leadership. There are also new cutting-edge forms of space-borne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance receiving their guidance from Schriever, including the all new Space-Based Space Surveillance System, poised to revolutionize how we maintain awareness within the space domain.
Schriever is also a place where the vast domains of space and cyberspace converge. The Air Force Satellite Control Network is one branch of this confluence. It has been the backbone of information flow to and from space for decades, supporting nearly all military, intelligence and manned spaceflight activities.
Of course, there are the 50th Space Wing’s mission partners here too, including the Space Innovation and Development Center, key elements of the Missile Defense Agency, Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense and others. Together, these organizations are probing new frontiers in technology, taking the nation to the next level in space and defense capabilities.
And let us not forget our Total Force teammates in the 310th Space Wing who are leading the charge in defining and growing Air Force Reserve space expertise for the Air Force. Many members of the 310th work right alongside their active duty counterparts across the full spectrum of mission activities here.
So there you have it, the Greatest Air Force Base the world has never seen. Let’s face it, Schriever Air Force Base may not be on the front pages of newspapers around the world, or featured prominently in today’s history books. It may not be near the top of the list of places to visit on a vacation to Colorado, though it seems tours are slowly increasing. Your average person on the street could not tell you where Schriever Air Force Base is, let alone what goes on there.
But those who serve here know they are, without fanfare, quietly and surely, making a tremendous difference across the globe. For them, that’s good enough.