By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
“Camera and GPS tracking device nab copper thief, Delta 4 on pad for next GPS launch, and Syracuse Plows Getting GPS Tracking Units,” are just a few of the leading news headlines regarding GPS today.
GPS is a term people use and or misuse daily. The satellite system, also known as Global Positioning System, consists of 38 satellites, which circle the Earth twice a day and fly in medium Earth orbit at approximately 12,550 miles altitude.
GPS prevalence today wasn’t predicted at its start. And it was not always a commodity utilized by more than 3 billion users on a daily basis.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to make GPS available for civilian use due to the Korean Airlines Flight tragedy, which killed its 269 passengers when it entered Soviet airspace after a navigation error.
GPS isn’t an automated, self-sustaining commodity either.
The 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base command and control the GPS constellation, which enables support to the warfighter, precise timing and much more including those directions from your phone.
“Most people are unaware that the GPS satellite constellation is flown by the men and women of the United States Air Force. This well trained team of active-duty Airmen, reservists, government civilians, and contractors ensure the world has GPS 24/7,” said Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander.
According to GPS.gov, GPS technology is now in everything from cell phones and wristwatches to bulldozers, shipping containers and ATMs.
“The uses for GPS reach far beyond navigation,” said Benson. “In fact, GPS is used for precise applications, such as banking transactions, locating a lost pet, athlete performance data, and is even used at cemeteries to precisely locate the remains of loved ones.”
Lt. Col. Matthew Brandt, 2 SOPS director of operations, gets excited just talking about how much GPS provides to the world free of charge and how essential it is.
“You should go home and tell your mom that you helped 3 billion people today, probably closer to 4 billion now,” said Brandt speaking to the operators whose hands have sent signals to satellites.
Brandt’s experience while on a deployment working for the director of space forces, as theatre space integration officer for the Middle East opened his eyes to the big picture of GPS.
“In that capacity, I got an opportunity to stop and talk to folks everywhere and I would ask them, ‘how does GPS work for you and what do you do with it’,” he said.
He said one Tactical Air Control Party Airman’s eyes lit up when he mentioned GPS. The TACP responded “It’s in everything I do.”
The Airman also said GPS is the engine this war is run on.
Brandt realized during his deployment that GPS is in infrared detection system over remote bases, blimp censor packages, air drop systems, precision guided munition systems and tools warfighters use.
Brandt acknowledged what this means to the Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman down range.
He said GPS is a critical requirement, which enables excellence and mission success.
His message to satellite operators is simple, “Most importantly don’t forget what you’re doing when you’re looking at the states of health screens because, there is probably someone sleeping under their Humvee wanting to go home tonight and they’re depending on GPS to do that. The performance GPS does saves lives every day.”