45th Space Wing: Looking Back at 2011 and Forward to 2012

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton
  • Commander, 45th Space Wing
Sharks! Let me be the first to welcome you back from what I hope was a relaxing and fun holiday. I know that we all welcomed the break after the recent launches, preparation for and ultimately execution of AFSPC's first Consolidated Unit Inspection (CUI). Let's take a quick look back at last year's accomplishments and look ahead to the upcoming year.

During 2011, we participated in 11 launches off the Eastern Range that not only contributed to our national defense, but also research and space exploration. The year started with the launches of the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) and National Reconnaissance Office satellites (NROL-27) in March and was then followed by the first launch of the critical DoD satellite, the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-1 in May.
In May and July, we also saw the final two Space Shuttles fly out, Endeavor (STS-134) and Atlantis (STS-135). Both of these missions delivered payloads to the International Space Station for scientific research. These final flights marked the end of the 30-plus year Space Shuttle program.
We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first free human into space, Alan Shepherd, which happened at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 5 May 1961. One of those who served proudly in space is our 14th Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Helms. She was acknowledged for her achievements and inducted into the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame in May.

In July, we also launched the second GPS-IIF satellite before launching three research satellites for NASA: Juno, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). These were launched in August, September and November, respectfully.

This year we also had many Distinguished Visitors: President and Mrs. Obama, Florida Governor Scott, Florida Lt. Governor Carroll, Congresswoman Giffords from Arizona, the Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary Donley, the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Cartwright, the USSTRATCOM Commander, General Kehler, the AFSPC Commander, General Shelton. All witnessed the extraordinary pride and professionalism of Team Patrick.

Finally, we had our CUI in December. Overall the wing received a passing IN COMPLIANCE WITH COMMENTS rating. That does not sound very magical but is an enviable result. The wing was inspected in 29 areas and did well. In addition, there were some units that "knocked it outta the park!" Kudos to our Mighty Medics of the 45th Medical Group who received an OUTSTANDING rating on their Health Services Inspection. Theprofessionals of the 45th Launch Group "smoked" the Logistics Compliance Assessment Program (LCAP), with an OUTSTANDING rating while the 45th Mission Support Group pulled in an EXCELLENT rating. All in all, wing members earned 21 STRENGTHS, 22 PROFESSIONAL PERFORMERS and 14 PROFESSIONAL TEAMS. Well done!

As we move into 2012, the Eastern Range is going to be very busy. We will continue to launch missions that directly impact the security of our nation and also support important commercial and scientific missions.

There are 12 launches scheduled for 2012 on the Eastern Range. Some key missions are the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS-4) this month, SpaceX's mission to the International Space Station and the first satellite of the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), both in February. Later in the year we'll have the next Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-2) launch as well as two NRO launches (NROL-38 and NROL-15) this summer. We'll also have the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), GPS IIF-4, OTV-3 and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K) later in the year. And folks wonder if the Florida space coast is still in business?!

As we focus on our primary mission; safely executing assured access to space, let's not forget our mission of deploying combat ready Airmen around the world. Never forget the honorable service and the sacrifice Airmen and their families makeevery single day. 2012 will be a memorable one and I look forward to working side-by-side with all of you at the 45th Space Wing. I'm proud to be a member of this team.

Keep pushing, Sharks!