by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
4/8/2015 - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- Located
at the "Top of the World," the 12th Space Warning Squadron's location
offers a unique and strategic vantage point in the execution of its
missile warning, missile defense and space surveillance missions in
support of U. S. Strategic Command.
The 12th SWS, one of the 21st Space Wing's geographically separated
units, operates the Upgraded Early Warning Radar 24/7. The radar is
maintained by U.S. and Canadian Airmen, and is assisted by a U.S.,
Danish and Greenlandic contractor force. While the unit is small, the
strategic importance and criticality of its mission is not.
As part of the Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment System,
12th SWS provides the U.S. National Command Authority with early
warning of all ICBM and submarine launched ballistic missiles
penetrating its coverage area and their probable impact points. NORAD
evaluates the integrated sensor information and notifies the national
leadership in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., whether or not North America
is under attack.
"Time is critical in the execution of our missile warning mission," said
Lt. Col. Jason Resley, 12th SWS commander. "Our crews have under a
minute to assess and determine whether they have a valid or anomalous
site report and forward our data to the Missile Warning Center."
The 12th SWS has a secondary mission of providing space surveillance
data on man-made objects in space to the Joint Space Operations Center
at Vandenberg Air Force Base,
Calif. The 12th SWS set a record last year with more than three million
space objects tracked to help the JSpOC maintain space situational
awareness. The space surveillance mission includes tracking routine
space objects, maneuvering satellites, re-entry assessments and space
"My experience here at 12th SWS and Thule has been fast paced; we have
the same responsibilities as all of the other space warning squadrons
with about half of the manning," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Rogers, 12th SWS
crew chief. "Also we have tracked more objects this past year, than in
12th SWS's 50-plus year history."
The 12th SWS also battles the harsh Arctic environment. When strong
winds or an Arctic storm blows through, the members have to sometimes
stay in their radar complex for their safety. The complex provides many
resources for its members, including a dining facility, fitness center,
sleeping quarters and even a small game area. The complex also has its
own fire department and medical room in case of emergencies.
"Our job here in the Arctic is unique mostly because of the climate.
Very few bases have to deal with the extreme Arctic cold and the seasons
of complete darkness and total light," said Rogers. "You do not realize
just how much sunlight affects people's moods until you take it away
for four months."
Even with the busy schedules and Mother Nature at her coldest, everyone
comes away from their one year remote tour at Thule AB with fond
memories and once- in- a-lifetime experiences.
"Thule has been an amazing assignment. The unique environment with awe
inspiring landscapes, the selfless dedication of Thule's Airmen and
their constant focus on mission accomplishment, and the Wingman culture
both on and off duty, is what I will remember the most," said Resley.
"With the support of our friends and families thousands of miles away,
we execute the mission to ensure the safety and security of our nation
and its allies."