by Senior Airman Sean Mitchell
19th Space Operations Squadron
11/4/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When
you watched the series finale of one of your favorite television
series, you probably got misty eyed and remembered where it all began,
thinking back through the ups and downs of your favorite starship
captain, mobster or desperate housewife. The show itself might have even
reviewed its own history. When you reach the end of an era, it's only
natural to take a look back.
After 15 years of launch operations for the Global Positioning System,
19th Space Operations Squadron Reservists just completed their 26th
launch as a squadron Oct. 31, performing checkout operations on the 11th
GPS IIF satellite. Only one more IIF remains before GPS III launch and
checkout operations will transition to Lockheed Martin.
"I worked GPS launches in the 1st Space Operations Squadron back in the
1990s," said Tech. Sgt. Giovanni Carotti, 19 SOPS mission chief, whose
career is the perfect bookend to military GPS launch operations. "Not a
lot of us are still around from those days, I'm glad to have seen the
beginning and to be here for the end."
In December 1989, 1 SOPS assumed control of launch and early orbit
operations for the Global Positioning System including satellite
activation, initial checkout and transfer to mission orbit. On Oct. 1,
2000, 19 SOPS stood up, in part, to surge with, and support, GPS
launches. The last 1 SOPS support to GPS was done December 2007, before
transitioning to the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, the active duty unit
responsible for day-to-day GPS operations. The personnel of 19 SOPS,
the Reserve associate unit to 2 SOPS, maintain operational continuity
and expertise, and to this day remain the launch leaders for GPS.
"When you consider how this squadron has supported the launch and
checkout for the vast majority of GPS satellites in today's
constellation, and you consider the impact GPS has made on our military,
our economy and our world, you can't help but feel pride for the men
and women of 19 SOPS, both past and present," said Lt. Col. Sam Baxter,
19 SOPS commander. "Our citizen Airmen provide our nation a tremendous
capability by supporting GPS operations at a taxpayer bargain, as the
majority of the squadron serves part-time, surging for unique
requirements like launch and satellite checkout."
With their final launch support scheduled for Feb. 3, 2016, 19 SOPS is
getting ready for the last episode. When the credits roll, they can be
proud of serving billions of users for 15 years, 27 launches and a
lifetime of memories. Those are better ratings than any show on
television. But they won't be finished there.
"We're now applying our same honed launch processes to satellite
disposal operations, "said Capt. Stephanie Scott, launch lead and
Satellite Vehicle Operations director. "We're planning on disposing of
older GPS satellites with fewer capabilities that are well beyond their
life expectancy, at a rate of two per year for the next few years."
In addition to normal GPS operations, 19 SOPS will continue to support
navigation warfare and ground segment modernization efforts.
Cradle-to-grave GPS operations is part of the 19 SOPS' vision statement, a hallmark of pride for 15 years.