By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Have you ever used your GPS navigation system either on your phone or car, and somehow ended up lost, cold and hungry, and clueless as to how to get to where you are going?
If you answered yes to the question, you were probably being dramatic. What was your initial response? Was it, thank you outdated software in my receiver or outdated map for getting me lost? Or was your response, “Thanks a lot GPS.”
The 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons, who operate the GPS satellite constellation, said that it was definitely not the fault of GPS and they want to educate people as to why.
“GPS did not get you lost,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Brandt, 2 SOPS director of operations. “The GPS signal coming from the satellites is pristine. It has to be.”
Brandt said a lot of people think of GPS as an app on their phone.
“They don’t realize the infrastructure that’s behind it,” he added. “They don’t think about the 38 satellites in orbit and the hundreds of thousands of people who have built, designed and made it possible.”
Their units have to ensure a perfect signal because GPS does a whole lot more than provide everyone directions to grandmas. It serves as an essential and vital part of mission success for the many career fields of its 3 billion users.
“Somebody somewhere is using that signal to put a bomb on a target and kill a bad guy,” Brandt said. “Somebody is using GPS to pull an extraction or using it to call in an airstrike.”
And in addition to the support to the warfighter, GPS provides precise timing, enabling businesses to timestamp. This equates to ATM transactions, electrical power grids, communications and much more.
“The first GPS launch was in 1978 and we have been doing operations for 36 years,” said Brandt.
That’s more than 30 years’ worth of history and very little heritage has been documented. But Brandt and the squadron hope to change that starting now.
2 and 19 SOPS are hosting GPS week Feb. 15-20 to honor their heritage and interact directly with the Colorado Springs community.
Tech. Sgt. Abifarin Scott, 2nd Space Operations Squadron GPS maintenance flight chief, is the overall coordinator for GPS week.
“It started off as just an idea,” said Scott. “And from there, we added on and started working on the logistics.”
The week kicks off with a community Geocaching event Feb. 15 at Memorial Park, which is open to the Colorado Springs community. Participants can register for free at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f084daba822a5f85-gpsawareness or in person at 9 a.m. the day of the event. The event will last approximately four hours and the first three winners will receive prizes.
On Feb. 17, the squadrons will be hosting middle and high school students. They will receive a tour of the base and learn about GPS and space. Also, in the near future, 2 SOPS will be reaching out to local schools to visit and educate them about space.
“We wanted to touch the different facets of our community and that’s why we planned these events,” said Scott.
The culminating event for the week will be a GPS heritage celebration Feb. 20 at the Antlers Hilton in Colorado Springs. The celebration will be a formal dining event and will feature Dr. Brad Parkinson as a guest speaker. The unit sent out invitations and opened the event to anyone who has had a hand in GPS since its inception. At the dinner they will be giving away $400 dollar scholarships to two deserving high school seniors.
Scott said the events took a planning committee of 20 and hundreds of hours to coordinate.
“It’s our way of saying thank you,” said Scott.
He added the true test will be in how the week turns out.
Brandt hopes the dinner will allow the Airmen to hear the stories of the early pioneers and what they went through to make GPS happen.
“I hope they see that this thing is much bigger than just sending a command to the satellite,” he said. “ It took a lot to get here.”
This is their way of carrying the heritage forward.
“This is something much bigger than me,” said Brandt.
For more information about GPS week please contact Tech. Sgt. Abifarin Scott at 567-2725.