By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 22nd Space Operations Squadron provides scheduling for Department of Defense satellites, however, it’s the unit’s defensive counter-space operators who provide the first line of defense for the DoD satellites.
“We monitor signals from satellites and make sure they’re as clean as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Caleb Shackelford, 22nd SOPS DSCO operator. “We monitor frequencies for anomalies or interferences, whether that be hostile, friendly, space or ground based.”
The 22nd SOPS is responsible for scheduling the time on satellites to support commanding and telemetry downloads.
“DSCOs are the eyes and ears of the Air Force satellite control network,” Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd SOPS DSCO said. “The AFSCN is the network our users operate to communicate with satellites. It’s a global network of antennas used to send and receive signals.”
Vandenbosch said DSCOs are important because users need to be able to get clean data to and from satellites.
“We monitor interference and use it to tell operators how to alter their schedules to avoid any satellite damage,” he said. “If we didn’t do our job, it’d be more difficult to categorize interferences and where they come from. The process would take much longer.”
DSCOs work daily to detect interferences to provide security to the nation, the two types of interferences in the DSCOs world are electro-magnetic interference and radio frequency interference.
“Space is involved in almost everything now,” Vandenbosch said. “The fact we have the capability to be nearly anywhere through our satellites is amazing.”
Before working as a 22nd SOPS DSCO, Shackelford was a tactical special operations communications Airman, working primarily with Air Force tactical air control party Airmen.
“Everyone knows Special Forces is the ‘tip of the spear,’ but space is just as important,” he said. “Warfighters across the globe rely on operators here to perform their duties at an exceptional level.”
Although Shackelford wasn’t a space operator by trade, he was the first DSCO in the 22nd SOPS
“The position really became a thing in 2016,” he said. “[Brig. Gen. Deanna Burt, Air Force Space Command director of operations] pushed to have the defensive counter-space role on AFSCN operations to monitor for interference.”
Since the stand-up of the position in 2016, DSCOs have been providing clean and uncorrupted data to its users.
“Information is power and that’s exactly what we provide,” Vandenbosch said. “We enable our users to know what’s out there and what’s affecting their satellites.”
The United States space superiority isn’t a given, it’s through the work of its operators the mission is accomplished at such a high level.
“As more countries get involved, more satellites are launched, and the more congested space, there’s a higher likelihood to be more satellite interference,” Shackelford said. “By providing situational awareness to our operators, we’re able to improve our space superiority as an Air Force.”