Commentary by Col. James Ross
50th Space Wing commander
It was nearly 11 months ago when I took command of “the best of the best of the best” organization in Air Force Space Command, the 50th Space Wing. You may recognize that quote from a film clip shown during my last commander’s call anyone who knows me, knows I like quoting movies. Though that quote comes from the movie, “Men in Black” and was used to mock a wet-behind-the-ears second lieutenant, it truly represents how Team 50th is viewed throughout AFSPC.
Our team is made up of more than 5,600 military, government civilians and contractors worldwide. That number divided by the total population of the world equals a very small figure. Though our numbers may seem small in comparison, our strengths, capabilities and efforts, in support of American forces and other customers around the globe, are anything but trivial. For this reason, I felt it necessary to reassess the wing mission statement and make it so no matter who you asked, each person on this base would recall without hesitation, “The 50th Space Wing’s mission is to command satellites to deliver decisive global effects!”
During the past year, we’ve accomplished great things as a wing. Our 50th Operations Group enabled AFSPC to provide Operationally Responsive Space-1 to U. S. Strategic Command for early combatant command use. They performed final shutdown of the 3rd Space Operations Squadron’s legendary test asset satellite, B9, after 18 years of service and SVN-24 of the 2nd Space Operations Squadron after 20 years of service, as well as brought Global Positioning Satellites from residual status back to active status. Additionally, as a wing, we’ve added Operationally Responsive Satellite-1, Wideband Global SATCOM-4, Space Based Space Surveillance, Global Positioning System IIF-2 and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite-1 to our satellite inventory, as well as helped launch Advanced Extremely High Frequency-2, further enhancing the wing’s capabilities to provide decisive global effects to users around the world. Furthermore, we’ve worked to integrate operations for the 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons through the Integrated Operations Environment. The construction of IOE is slated to complete by mid-September. This achievement will allow for greater operational effectiveness, collaboration and space situational awareness among military satellite communications operators to help us prevail in an increasingly contested and congested environment.
As previously mentioned, we have significantly increased our satellite inventory; we’ve seen the highest-ever operations tempo in the history of the 50th. In support of this, the 50th Network Operations Group has performed 133,865 Air Force Satellite Control Network contacts since August of 2011. The same expertise and professionalism used to propel these efforts can be seen within every facet of the wing. It is because of our success that we need to remember why we’re here; it’s important to keep our situational awareness and “maintain an even strain.” We need to be focused and prepared for what’s ahead; like when our detachments in Guam and Hawaii that received high ratings and were lauded for “Network Best Practices” with less than 30 days of notice prior to their recent inspections. The wing is also breaking new ground by coordinating with our sister wing, the 21st Space Wing, on space situational awareness, leveraging both ground and space based sensors with the OG’s Space Based Space Surveillance satellite and the NOG’s Air Force Satellite Control Network.
Our operational accomplishments would not have been possible without the support and sustainment provided from the 50th Mission Support Group. They work both in front of and behind the scenes to reinforce the seamless operational support that the 50th Space Wing provides for users around the world. You may have noticed several installation beautification projects going on around base. These projects don’t just enhance the look of the base; they heavily take into consideration our budget and environment to ensure we attain as much of a win-win situation as possible. In addition, our electronic security system for the restricted area is now certified by HQ AFSPC. They’ve also opened the golf and batting cages, the youth and chapel center and the indoor running track, which I’m sure many of you can appreciate since you no longer have to drive out to Peterson to take your fitness test.
Some of these accomplishments may be associated more so with one group vice another, but none could have been accomplished alone. Not one of these achievements was realized by a single person, or any one group of people, for that matter. It was the innovative and collective efforts of many people and many groups that brought ideas from progression to realization. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not have won the AFSPC Hennessy or Small Fire Department, the Pikes Peak Small Business Partnership, the Defense Switched Network or the 2011 General Robert T. Herres and General Thomas S. Moorman Jr. Awards, had we not worked together.
Now, we know we’re good and we have the hardware to prove it. I’m proud of what the wing has done to earn those honors. I’m also proud that the wing has gone above and beyond accomplishing the mission. We were the first of the Front Range bases to not only reach our Combined Federal Campaign goal, but surpass it. What other military base have you heard that set out to break a world record in dodge ball? It wasn’t for our own glorification, but to raise money for the Air Force Assistance Fund. I’m in awe that despite our fiscally constrained environment, we collectively reached into our pockets and graciously gave to others and raised more than $325,000 between the two campaigns. Along the lines of morale boosting events, we’ve also opened our very own coffee shop: Wizard’s Brew in Building 210, where the employees come to know your name, your favorite pick-me-up beverage and always greet you with a smile. We are more than the squadrons that make up three different groups and wing staff. We are a family that makes up a wing and everyone on this team supports our mission.
In addition to our stellar accomplishments, steps were taken to engage our Airmen and civilians alike in professional development. Back in February of this year, the 50th Space Wing hosted Col. Clint Crosier, former director of Space Forces, U. S. Central Command. This forum was open to all members of the 50th Space Wing and our 16 mission partners; he spoke to our people about the importance of the support and effects we provide from Schriever and how what we do directly impacts our warfighters. Recently, we’ve also started the Professional Development Movie Series in the auditorium of Building 300 to facilitate even more opportunities to grow and learn alongside your peers and leadership. The purpose of showing movies and documentary type films in this setting is simply to take advantage of a resource we have available to us and provide additional means for our people to grow. I cannot emphasize how important it is to take advantage of these opportunities; it’s crucial to our mission success that you all strive to develop professionally and take what you learn and experience back to your units.
We have many challenges ahead of us with potential budget reductions and force shaping. By utilizing the same innovation, integrity and courage I’ve seen you display these past 11 months, I know we will meet these and other challenges head on and turn them into opportunities. Thank you for everything you do for your units, the wing, the Air Force and our great nation.
The bar was set high when I arrived here last year and from what I’ve seen we’ve surpassed it and we’re on a trajectory to go even higher. Here’s a quote from the 1983 film, “The Right Stuff” by Gordon Cooper, played by Dennis Quaid, “Who was the best pilot I ever saw? Well, uh, you’re lookin’ at ‘im.” Well, 50th Space Wing, if anyone asks you, “Who is the best space wing in AFSPC?” you can say with fervor “Well, uh, you’re lookin’ at ‘em.”