Year in Review: Milestones pave way for bright future

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman William Tracy
  • 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

This past year brought a unprecedented focus on the ever evolving space and cyberspace warfighting realms, with the 50th Space Wing advancing its dominance as the epicenter of space through a series of notable achievements.

The year commemorating the 26th anniversary of the wing began with Airmen throughout the wing successfully executing a week-long repair and reconstruction of the base’s power in addition to the successful deployment of space operations to alternate locations.

“We had seven straight days of activity and when we tallied up the numbers we had a total of 575 people working, intensely over the three day weekend,” said Col. Jennifer Grant, 50th SW commander, during a commander’s call. “You did it and you made it look easy. We just proved we could do what nobody thought we could, without a severe impact to operations.”

The 1st Space Operations Squadron accepted control authority of a new satellite during an on base ceremony in March. The Operationally Responsive Space-5 satellite furthered the 50th SW’s power projection providing increased global situational awareness of space objects.

“ORS-5 is definitely a game changer,” said Maj. Patrick Gaynor, 1st SOPS operations officer. “Because this satellite flies directly over the equator, it gives us a different capability to bring on board. Instead of only seeing parts of the geosynchronous belt, we’re seeing the satellite constantly scan it.”

The event shows the expansion of the wing’s influence, part of the evolution of space and cyberspace warfighting superiority through integrated and innovative operations.

Additionally, 1st SOPS combined its Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness and Space Based Space Surveillance ops floors to full functionality in April.

Midway through the year, the wing started its Innovative Warfighters Advancing Readiness program, seeking innovative ideas from Airmen of all ranks throughout the base. The program, based on the Air Force Space Command’s “Shark Tank,” encourages Airmen to submit their ideas to improve the wing and then present their ideas and proposals to a leadership panel.

The iWAR program fostered many successful ideas, such as a 2nd Space Operations Squadron Mission Planning Cell multimedia computer to increase their ability to support users in theater.

The wing’s operational effectiveness starts with individual Airmen, with life on the home front essential to the mission.

The summer was in line with the 50th SW priority of take care of Airmen and their families always through 50th Force Support Squadron events such as the monthly First Fridays, which brings Airmen from all squadrons together for a chance to unwind and relax. 

October marked the successful launch of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Four satellite and the 4th Space Operations Squadron’s successful contact minutes after.

“This launch provides some new capabilities as far as security and increasing bandwidth for our strategic and tactical users,” said Lt. Col. Armon Lansing, 4th SOPS commander.

AEHF-4, as the name indicates, is the fourth satellite in the AEHF satellite system, each satellite providing greater capacity than the entire five-satellite Milstar program; a major step for the wing’s dominating presence in space.

In November, the 2nd SOPS’s achieved a GPS milestone installing and taking formal command of Architecture Evolution Plan 7.5, the largest GPS architectural change in operational history.

“Our cybersecurity capabilities are improved and this postures us to better operate in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment,” said 1st Lieutenant Jonathan Campbell, 2nd SOPS assistant operations flight commander.

The successful installation and command of AEP 7.5 sets the platform for the installation of AEP 8.0, which will deliver the capability to command and control new GPS III satellites, planning and posturing for tomorrow’s engagements, a wing priority.

“This will provide combat ready space warfighters delivering position, navigation and timing to optimize the full range of Air Force, joint force and civilian operations, across all domains,” Campbell said.

The year concluded with the launch of the first GPS III satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Dec. 23, providing stronger GPS capabilities than ever. Its launch is a marking point for the future of 2nd SOPS and GPS, and ushers in a new era of space and cyberspace power projection for the 50th SW.

On top of all these milestones, throughout the year the 50th SW Inspector General’s office conducted more than 20 horizontal and vertical inspections and five onsite inspections ensuring the wing is mission ready all the time, a proactive approach that unites the base to be prepared now and into the future, fulfilling the 50th SW vision.

These achievements cumulate a dynamic year of milestones. Decades after the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing’s activation as the 50th SW at then Falcon Air Force Base, Colorado, the wing continues to serve as the epicenter of space now and into the new year.