HomeNewsArticle Display

Detachment 3 marks 50 years of supporting NASA

Former astronauts Bob Springer and Jon McBride sign autographs for eager children following the Astronaut Panel held by Detachment 3 April 24 at the Patrick Base Theater. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Connell)

Former astronauts Bob Springer and Jon McBride sign autographs for eager children following the Astronaut Panel held by Detachment 3 April 24 at the Patrick Base Theater. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Connell)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It's amazing what has been accomplished in our country's space program in just 50 years. As NASA prepares to retire the space shuttle, Air Force personnel at Patrick Air Force Base who are part of Human Space Flight Support are celebrating 50 years of Department of Defense support of manned space flight. From the dry test beds at Edwards AFB in the 1940s to the launch pads at Cape Canaveral today, the Department of Defense has provided vital support to NASA in both research and development of spacecraft and in real world mission execution. Fifty years of dedicated support is absolutely a milestone worth celebrating.

To honor and thank those who served before, the Human Space Flight Support Office or Detachment 3 of the 45th Operations Group hosted a 50th Anniversary celebrating the organization's support to NASA. Detachment 3 has had a key role for five decades since the onset of our country's pursuit of human space flight. Festivities included a reunion dinner, a Kennedy Space Center Tour, an astronaut panel discussion, and a golf tournament. The celebration drew three shuttle astronauts and former workers who were part of the early support team decades ago. Lt. Col. (Dr.) Melinda Screws who works at the detachment organized the event. She said," it was truly a pleasure to work on an event that brought together our predecessors, prior DDMS'ers, with the individuals that our mission is all about, the Astronauts. Our way forward is rooted in the rich legacy of our past."

Back in the day, Detachment 3 was called DDMS, which stood for Department of Defense Mercury Support. Detachment 3 hosted a reunion dinner for former "DDMSers" including some from the 1960s who supported Mercury and Apollo missions. The Detachment hosted over 100 people including six former DDMS commanders. The night culminated with NASA's Dave Phillips presenting the Detachment a beautiful framed piece with collector's pins from every manned launch. Col. Michael Tillema, the current Det 3 commander said, "It was an honor accepting the gift and representing those who worked for the organization in the past."

Detachment 3 is the only full time staff that coordinates and trains personnel worldwide at 35 locations to support Space Shuttle contingencies. This includes military and civilian hospital personnel, fire fighters and airfield managers. As NASA moves toward retirement of the space shuttle, the detachment is again at the grass roots of the Constellation program testing/validating water recovery procedures of the Orion capsule.

Part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary included a visit to the base by current astronaut AF Col. Greg Johnson, and former astronauts Navy Capt. (ret) Jon McBride and Marine Col.(ret) Bob Springer, who shared some of the excitement about their flights with an audience of Airmen and families gathered at the base's theater.

Former astronaut Captain McBride thanked Detachment 3 for setting up the panel. "We salute the Air Force and everything they do to support us," he said. "And I hope we can work together for the next 50 years." Detachment 3 has already established a lasting legacy and will continue to provide support of our country's space program for decades to come.