By Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson
36th Wing Public Affairs
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — All military operations, from humanitarian to combat, now depend on space. Space operators at a deactivated World War II airstrip taxiway stand ready 24/7 to support these missions.
The 21st Space Operations Squadron Detachment 2 members celebrated 50 years of space operations Sept. 17 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The ceremony lured past members, as well as leaders from its parent unit, the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, to the remote site.
In 1965, Operating Location Number 10 was founded. It supported the Corona Project, a mission where a camera took detailed photographs of large areas of the Earth from orbit. Once the photos were taken, a film cartridge was then dropped back into Earth’s atmosphere for U.S. forces to retrieve.
This at the time groundbreaking feat presented many obstacles to achieving success. They had to design a camera that could operate under extreme conditions, figure out how to maneuver the camera once it reached orbit and finally retrieve the film cartridge from where it landed.
The project overcame these obstacles and so began the use of space assets in military affairs.
Eight name changes and 50 years later, 21st SOPS Det. 2 members are maintaining operations at the tracking station.
Thirty to forty Det. 2 members are contractors, some of who have been working there for decades.
“Being able to lead the team, some of who have been here since almost the beginning, has been an absolute privilege,” said Maj. Christopher Butler, 21 SOPS Det. 2 commander.
Their mission day-to-day is to execute on-demand, real-time command and control operations for launch and operations of 175 Department of Defense, national, allied and civil satellites, operate one of eight remote tracking stations in the Air Force Satellite Control Network, and provide time-critical tactical data delivery to warfighters.
“Every day when you walk into our site, there is always something going on,” said Master Sgt. Robert Jelley, 21 SOPS Det. 2 chief. “We support the mission 24/7.”
While Det. 2 is a vital contributor to AFSCN missions throughout the years, the goal has always been the same: give the American warfighter the advantage from above.
“I just want the world to know that Detachment 2 has their backs,” Butler said.
With 50 years under their belts, the detachment will continue to support missions for the Department of Defense, giving U.S. forces an extra eye in the sky to maintain peace.