By 2nd Lt. Jim Godfrey
10th Space Warning Squadron
CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D. — For 35 years, Cavalier Air Force Station has led the way in the fields of missile warning and space surveillance, with its powerful Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System, or PARCS.
The PARCS radar is the most powerful of five missile warning and space surveillance radars operated by the 21st Space Wing. These include systems located at Clear AFB, Alaska, Beale AFB, Calif., Cape Cod Air Station, Mass., and Thule AFB, Greenland. PARCS can more effectively track and discriminate multiple objects in low-earth orbit. The 10th SWS detects and tracks near-earth man-made objects at a range of nearly 3,300 nautical miles for the Joint Space Operations Center and provides space object identification data for the space surveillance network in the course of its missile defense mission.
The story of Cavalier AFS starts with the Safeguard Project, a U.S. Army Cold War endeavor involving the employment of anti-ballistic missiles. Cavalier was only one part of a system of installations located in northeastern North Dakota. However, the signing of the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union caused the Safeguard project to be scuttled and the Army ceded control of the installation to the Air Force.
It was during the change of command ceremony between the two services that the motto that motivates Cavalier to this day was conceived, when Army Brig. Gen. John Jones said, “May the (phased array radar), in its new role as Concrete Missile Early Warning Station, serve as a reminder that peace is never permanently won, but only instant to watchful instant.” Instant to watchful instant — that phrase still serves as the Cavalier AFS motto and motivates and inspires the operations conducted at the installation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Since then, Cavalier has been under Air Force control. But that did not mean that the command hierarchy in charge of this installation remained unchanged. Originally named the Concrete Missile Early Warning Station after the town of Concrete, a very small settlement just outside the installation, the air station fell under Aerospace Defense Command. It was later transferred to Strategic Air Command. Since 1983, it has been a part of Air Force Space Command. When the post office in Concrete closed in 1983, CMEWS changed its name to Cavalier AFS. The town of Cavalier, located about 12 miles east of the air station, is one of the larger towns in the area with a population of approximately 1,500 people.
Despite the many changes throughout its existence, its main missions have remained essentially unchanged since 1979. Using the unique PARCS, Cavalier is able to track both incoming missiles that may be directed at North America and satellites orbiting the earth. For 35 years, Cavalier has been home to men and women, military, civilians, and contractors who have served and continue to serve their country. That legacy continues to this day and will continue into the future, instant to watchful instant.