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AFTAC celebrates 60th anniversary

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- While the entire Air Force celebrates its 60th anniversary, the Air Force Technical Applications Center will celebrate another 60th as well.

The Long-Range Detection Pro-gram, a key part of AFTAC's nuclear treaty monitoring mission, began two days before the Air Force became a separate service.

"While Airmen everywhere should take pride in their service as the Air Force celebrates its 60th anniversary, AFTAC personnel can't help but focus on the 60th anniversary of the Long-Range Detection Program too," said Col. Mark Westergren, AFTAC commander. "The successes of the LRD Program are also successes of the Air Force, and we are proud to be the caretakers for this enduring, vitally important program."

Soon after World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower recognized the need to monitor nuclear programs. In 1947, he directed the Army Air Forces to be able to "detect atomic explosions anywhere in the world." From that directive, the LRD Program was born.

When AFTAC was activated in 1973, it assumed responsibility for the LRD Program. This program has evolved into a resource that monitors compliance with nuclear treaties, supports our nation's space programs and helps protect everyone during emergencies involving nuclear materials. AFTAC systems detected and confirmed nuclear weapon tests by India and Pakistan in 1998. In October 2006, AFTAC's U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System detected an event associated with North Korea's claim of a nuclear test and later provided verification to national authorities that the event was nuclear in nature.

AFTAC is holding several events Oct. 11-13 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the LRD Program, including an AFTAC building tour, golf tournament and a commemorative dinner. AFTAC and other long-range detection mission alumni from around the country will be among the participants in the festivities. Maj. Gen. Paul Dettmer, assistant deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at Air Force headquarters and former AFTAC commander, is the guest speaker for the dinner.

"This is a great opportunity for those who are a part of the LRD Program - both past and present - to come together to enjoy the camaraderie of this occasion," said Master Sgt. Thomas Highsmith, chairman of AFTAC's 60th LRD Program anniversary committee. "Although we're commemorating the LRD Program's 60th anniversary, we're really celebrating the people who throughout the years have worked to make this program what it is today."