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Schriever Sentinel

Final arctic tracking station commander goes out with a ‘Bang’

By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 is scheduled to host a change of command in June bidding farewell to the unit’s final uniformed detachment leader.

Capt. John Bang, current 23rd SOPS Det. 1 commander, change of command marks the unit’s transition to a government civilian to enable the Space Force to support other warfighting needs while improving continuity and efficiency at the site.

“To be the last detachment commander is a bittersweet experience,” he said. “I am proud to be part of POGO’s (Polar Orbiting Geophysical Observatory) long heritage in the Arctic and I remain confident they will continue to achieve mission success.”

The unit is responsible for performing telemetry, tracking and commanding operations in support of U.S. and allied satellite programs in support of national defense . They operate the Air Force Satellite Control Network for national use alongside its parent squadron and other globally separated units.

“It’s been a great learning experience working here,” Bang said. “I have encountered many challenges and unique situations that would not have been possible [to solve] if I had not stepped beyond my comfort zone. Many situations required the ability to take the strengths of others and appropriately combine them in order to succeed. While I have developed into a more capable Airman, I continue to be humbled by the talents and skills of those that make POGO’s successes possible.” 

It’s the commander’s duty to ensure the successful execution of the unit’s mission, take care of those working at the detachment and coordinate with the 821st Air Base Group to ensure seamless operations and integrated effort.

“No matter what the future may bring, respect and care for the people working beside you as they will be the ones who will help you succeed,” he said.

The commander position at Det. 1 is a one-year tour Airmen the rank of captain or above could fulfill. However, serving only one year at a time can bring on its own issues.

“This will bring forth greater continuity,” he said. “In addition to continuity of knowledge and experience, this change will help ensure the unit is not having to re-establish new relationships every year.”

Despite the command change, the detachment will continue to have a uniformed member oversee operations.

“[Having a uniformed leader] provides oversight into the practices and procedures being accomplished at this remote location,” said Master Sgt. Marcus Smith, 23rd SOPS Det. 1 chief. “Additionally, it provides a military point of view when liaising with agencies and personnel outside of the tracking station.”

Smith said it’s important to leave a positive impression on those you work with, and while Bang has done that, he said the change is appropriate and needed.

“With manpower being a highly-valued and sought-after resource, becoming more efficient in how we use and position personnel is paramount,” Smith said. “The standing up of the United States Space Force will require highly skilled and motivated personnel to be available in key positions.”

Despite being separated from its parent unit by thousands of miles, det. 1 has successfully operated their mission for more than 59 years.

“Det. 1 will always operate at an elite level,” Bang said. “We have one of the most dedicated and best crew forces operating our assets to ensure that the Air Force Satellite Control Network stands ready to support our nation and allied partners.”

Before departing as the final military commander of the 59-year-old detachment, Bang wanted to leave a message for those serving at the Arctic unit.

“ Thank you to the men and women with whom I have had the great opportunity to lead and serve with,” he said. “Despite the challenges and changes that POGO has, or will experience, I know POGO will always continue to succeed and be home to a proud team.” 

Final arctic tracking station commander goes out with a ‘Bang’
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