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45th Space Wing: contributing to the flight every day

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- How are you contributing to the war effort? I think about how to tell this story often, and find it easiest to just look at a day in the life of our troops in Iraq to see how space power is contributing to the fight. 

First, think about the ground operators who are carrying the brunt of the load rolling up the insurgency. Much of their situational awareness comes from the ever-present Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flying overhead. Did you know the Predator can't take off from its theater staging base without a good global positioning system, or GPS, lock to guide it to its operational orbit? Once it arrives over the battlefield, command and control shifts to an operator flying the Predator from a base back in the United States. That remote Command and Control link is only possible with satellite communications, something the 45 SWth knows how to get on-orbit based on 50 straight successful DoD launches. 

When a target of interest is located, its coordinates are developed using GPS as well as maps overlaid with satellite imagery and other data collected from our national security space assets. At the same time, our ground forces are being fed that data through satellite data links and using it to, in many cases, "kick down doors" in their drive to break the back of the insurgency in Iraq. Space is a "Go/No-Go" criterion for our forces in theater. 

Another example of space's contribution to the war effort is witnessed in the operations of explosive ordnance disposal teams. When I deployed to Baghdad in 2005, I ran across EOD teams who explained how they used their GPS-enabled blue force trackers to locate improvised explosive devices and send and receive their operational orders. Blue force trackers enhance navigation in limited visibility, allowing air and ground vehicles to travel through fog, dust and sandstorms or at night. In addition, EOD teams can send information about ordnance locations or enemy formations using preformatted text messages or by communicating through chat capability. This capability is critical to tracking the EOD team as well as providing them reachback to their tactical operations center. Indeed, our motto is accurate-"Control of the Battlefield Begins Here." 

The bottom line is that whatever your role in the wing, you can be sure that your efforts are enabling combat capability that is saving lives and helping the military meet our nation's objectives. In just the past year, the 45th SW has launched reconnaissance and surveillance satellites, GPS spacecraft and satellite communications systems that are critical to the most basic elements of power projection in theater-keep up the great work!