SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Airman 1st Class William Beattie wakes up in the morning, brushes his teeth, shaves, showers, listens to country music and puts on his uniform before he drives to work at the 4th Space Operations Squadron as an Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite mission control sub-systems operator at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
Beattie, having served in the Air Force for only two years, sent the first command to the new AEHF-5 satellite, Nov. 23, increasing capabilities for users around the world.
“I had no idea I would be sending the command,” he said. “It feels really good knowing that as an Airman first class, I was able to do something that’s way bigger than me, it was humbling.”
The AEHF-5 satellite is part of a constellation of the most advanced protected communication satellites in the United States military. If there were a nuclear conflict, this is the satellite that would provide communications for the President, Nuclear Triad and other strategic users when the internet and cell phone communications would likely be unavailable.
First Lt. Connor Monahan, 4th SOPS operations flight commander, oversees Airmen as they operate the satellites that provide the United States armed forces and its allies with secured communications.
“AEHF is our premier satellite for protected communications,” he said. “Lives depend on the operations of it.”
Beattie was trained by the 50th Operations Support Squadron for four months before joining his unit. He was then sent to the 4th SOPS where he continued training and began to execute the unit’s mission.
“People don’t realize the things they depend on are operated by young men and women on a day to day basis,” he said. “Our mission is executed by 18 and 19 year olds every day, it really speaks to how the Air Force develops and trains its professionals.”
Beattie, however, isn’t 18. He’s 24 years old and earned a degree in bio-engineering from the University of Maryland. He will commission through the Air Force officer training school at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Feb. 11, 2020. Upon graduation, Beattie will become a space officer.
“I’m grateful to have had this experience,” he said. “It’s really cool coming into work and seeing so many Airmen operating such an important mission at such a young age. I hope to be able to use this experience of sending the first command to a new satellite as a teaching point for new Airmen who think they don’t make an impact.”
Regardless of the day or shift, Beattie comes into work every day with a positive attitude and a good work ethic.
“He’s a standout worker,” Monahan said. “Beattie’s always up-beat, always professional and looking to learn more. He’s exactly the kind of Airman we need.”
Monahan said the Airmen who operate the satellites are silent professionals who often go unnoticed unless something goes wrong. Needless to say, this isn’t often.
“Regardless of rank or job, whether you’re an E-1 to O-10, you can make an impact,” Beattie said. “I never thought I’d be the one to send the command, but if you have the work ethic and the right attitude, you can achieve more than you think.”
Airmen across the force make a difference every day and continue to evolve the United States Air Force’s air, space and cyberspace warfighting superiority.