Year in Review: GSUs strengthen world bonds, mission

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported United Launch Alliance’s successful launch of the WGS-9 spacecraft aboard a ULA Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at 8:18 p.m. ET March 18, 2017, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Air Force has been breaking barriers since 1947 and the successful WGS-9 launch marks an important occasion for the Wideband constellation as it is a major milestone in a 20-year multilateral partnership. (Courtesy photo/ULA)

The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported United Launch Alliance’s successful launch of the WGS-9 spacecraft aboard a ULA Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at 8:18 p.m. ET March 18, 2017, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Air Force has been breaking barriers since 1947 and the successful WGS-9 launch marks an important occasion for the Wideband constellation as it is a major milestone in a 20-year multilateral partnership. (Courtesy photo/ULA)

Year in Review: GSUs strengthen world bonds, mission

Master Sgt. Barry Karpinski, 21st Space Operations Squadron detachment chief, deployed to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, managing and maintaining space communications systems in the most remote part of the world. (Courtesy photo)

Year in Review: GSUs strengthen world bonds, mission

Gen. John Hyten, U.S. Strategic Command commander, meets Airman Brittany Smith, 821st Security Forces Squadron entry controller, during an all-call at the Top of the World Club, July 17, 2017, at Thule Air Base, Greenland. Hyten and his wife, Laura, visited with Airmen during the visit and lunch at 12th Space Warning Squadron. Thule AB is the U.S. Armed Forces’ northernmost installation, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Md Hussain)

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Col. Jennifer Grant, 50th Space Wing commander, talks to 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 Airmen during a site visit at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Dec. 11, 2017. Grant accompanied Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander, during the trip. Det. 1 is a 50th SW geographically separated unit and is the northernmost unit of eight worldwide satellite tracking stations in the Air Force Satellite Control Network. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Maj. William McGillivray, 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 commander, presents a plaque commemorating 50,000 error-free supports to George Goodrum, Det. 1 site manager, at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Dec. 11, 2017. A support involves contacting a satellite from a ground tracking station and receiving and sending data. (Badges blurred for security purposes.) (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Maj. William McGillivray, 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 commander, presents a plaque commemorating 50,000 error-free supports to George Goodrum, Det. 1 site manager, at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Dec. 11, 2017. A support involves contacting a satellite from a ground tracking station and receiving and sending data. (Badges blurred for security purposes.) (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 50th Space Wing’s Geographically Separated Units, where the sun never sets, furthered their vital world mission, building on connections and missions this past year.

As a testament to the 50th SW GSU’s reach, Master Sgt. Barry Karpinski, 21st Space Operations Squadron detachment chief, spent the “summer” in Antarctica deployed as part of Operation Deep Freeze, a U.S. military logistical support component for the National Science Foundation-managed U.S. Antarctic Program, in January. 

Karpinski acted as a mission support representative and information technology coordinator, assisting with email and computer repairs for the approximately 100 personnel at their remote workstations and outlying field camps as well as the 1,200 personnel at nearby McMurdo Station. His support helped maintain vital communications in the remote region, which is a stark contrast from his assignment at Kaena Point Tracking Station, Hawaii.

“In Antarctica, most satellite coverage is only available for a few hours a day, anything from South Pole Communications, to the Land Traverse team delivering much needed supplies and fuel, heavily rely on every data byte of info they receive in that short period of time,” Karpinski said.

In New England, 23rd Space Operations Squadron Airmen stationed at New Boston Air Force Station, New Hampshire, held festivities such as “Winter Sports Day” in February and “Arbor Day/Earth Week Fun Run” in April.

The 50th Network Operations Group spent the summer supporting more than eight launches, from June – August, altering between 21st SOPS at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the 23rd SOPS Eastern Vehicles Checkout Facility at Cape Canaveral Florida, ending 2017 with 26 supported launches – five more than in 2016.

Here in Colorado, Air Force Space Command and Schriever personnel hosted the wing’s GSU presence at Ministry Of Defense, Oakhanger, U.K., as well as British representatives, merging U.S. and U.K. allies under the umbrella of space warfare last August.

“The annual visit supports the space war fighting construct of partnering with our Allies - a key element in strengthening the space enterprise,” said Maj. Uri Mandelbaum, chief, Air Force Satellite Control Network operations for Air Force Space Command. “It provides a forum for face-to-face discussions on Oakhanger operations.”

The four day visit covered the ever-changing space enterprise and the ongoing mission of Oakhanger, the only 50th Space Wing GSU and AFSCN site operated by non-U.S. personnel.

“We anticipate that we will have a plan for the way forward by early next year, we would like visits like this to become more frequent,” said Lt. Col. Dion Dixon, 23rd SOPS operations officer at Oakhanger. “There are some changes coming at Oakhanger that we are very excited to be working with the Brits on.”

Thule Air Base, Greenland, home of Detachment 1, 23rd SOPS, the wing’s northernmost GSU, hosted several distinguished visitors including Gen. John Hyten, U.S. Strategic Command commander, in July and a visit from Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander and Col. Jennifer Grant, 50th SW commander, in December.

Earlier in the year, the base gained full operation of the seventh and final Remote Tracking Station Block Change antenna, designated POGO-Charlie last July.

“The POGO-C antenna is important as its location in Thule, Greenland, is ideal for contacting polar-orbiting satellites,” said Col. William Angerman, 50th NOG commander.

Det. 1 achieved another milestone, capping off the year completing 50,000 supports without personnel error.

A support involves contacting a satellite from a ground tracking station and receiving and sending data. The 23rd SOPS’ mission is to operate the antennas to ensure connectivity with satellites. Each time they communicate with a satellite it qualifies as a support.   

“The last time a personnel error was committed was Feb. 11, 2014,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Holmes, 23rd SOPS commander. “It's hard to do anything 50,000 times across almost four years without making a mistake.”

Heading into 2018, the 50th Space Wing will further its presence, both on the world stage and in the space and cyberspace warfighting realms.