Celebrating 30 years in space: 7th Space Operations Squadron

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kayla Edwards
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs

The 7th Space Operations Squadron has a long and storied history, dating back to World War II, when it was known as the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. The unit was activated on January 28, 1942, at MacDill Field, Florida. Its primary mission was training pilots and technicians for photographic reconnaissance operations in theater. The unit also provided transportation and courier service in support of demobilization efforts in Europe post-WWII.

The unit’s mission remained focused on battlespace awareness, primarily being activated to conduct reconnaissance missions during the Korean War and Vietnam War, earning the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in 1969 and 1971.

However, the mission has evolved since its inception, and has seen a shift from flying aircraft to flying satellites. On January 1, 1993, the 7th Space Operations Squadron was activated in the Air Force Reserve to serve alongside and support the active-duty mission in furthering the space program. 7th SOPS was the first Reserve squadron to be activated specifically with a space-focused mission. Eventually, the unit grew in personnel and mission responsibility, and the squadron became part of the 310th Space Group, the predecessor of the now 310th Space Wing, the only space wing in the Air Force Reserve.

Today, the 7th SOPS provides space operations, intelligence, and engineering professionals to command, control, and employ the Space-Based Space Surveillance, Advanced Technology Risk Reduction, Operationally Responsive Space 5, and Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program to support space domain awareness.

“GSSAP allows for the capability of not only monitoring the space warfighting domain, but also safely characterizes objects of interest in space,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian McLean Jr., the 7th SOPS Section Chief and Senior evaluator. “Think of it as a camera in space – always watching and providing critical feedback on our assets and the domain they operate within.”

The 7th SOPS serves as the Reserve Associate Unit to the 1st Space Operations Squadron, which is part of Space Operations Command’s Space Delta 9. The relationship between the squadrons is an integral one that ensures continuity of training, evaluation, and operations in space domain awareness.

“The 7th SOPS Operations Support Flight is leading the way on advanced training, both in the 310th Operations Group and now in an integrated effort with our classic associate partners,” Lt. Col. Erin Hendricks, the 7th SOPS commander. “However, advanced training is only one of many efforts we are working on to move our mission forward.”

Although the 7th SOPS’s mission shifted 30 years ago, the squadron’s ability to remain agile and adaptable has ensured its continued relevance and readiness to meet the demand signal in the next evolution of military operations.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a Watchdog and continue the work the 7th SOPS started 30 years ago,” said Hendricks. “It’s exciting to think about what the future holds.”