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Revolutionary Capabilities

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I had the opportunity to tour the NAVSTAR Processing Facility with the 14th Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, during her visit last week.

As Gen. Helms listened to 1st Lt. Grotelueschen describe the Global Positioning System Block IIF satellite we are preparing for launch, I was taken back to January 1992 when I worked in that same clean room helping prepare GPS Block IIA satellites for launch on Delta II rockets. At the time, I was a 2nd Lieutenant serving in my first assignment, and the world was just beginning to discover the power of GPS.

I have always been proud that I was a member of the team deploying the first operational constellation of GPS satellites. I played a tiny role on the very large team required to design, build, launch and operate those systems, but it is the most significant accomplishment to which I have contributed in my professional life.

In the 20 years that followed, GPS revolutionized the world. Many of us have GPS navigation systems in our cars, boats, phones and even watches. Internet mapping programs give us convenient directions to stores, restaurants and our children's soccer fields based on map data derived from GPS systems. Aircraft navigate with GPS, and bank systems keep their clocks synchronized using GPS. The list of military and civilian applications of GPS is endless.

GPS provided my first opportunity to participate in revolutionary events, but such events were nothing new to Team Patrick. From the first test missiles of the 1940's to the X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle, we have been contributing to revolution for decades.

The new generation of missile warning, communications and intelligence satellites we helped launch in the last few years are already quietly revolutionizing military operations as significantly as GPS. Those satellites would not be orbiting the earth today without you -- your contributions to this base and its mission are essential to our continued success.

The 45th Space Wing plays a unique and important role on the team providing our nation's space capabilities, and based on my experience, I am confident that 20 years from now you will look back with pride on your contributions to that team.