Military News

Monday, July 20, 2015

"The Sun Never Sets" on Schriever, Det. 1, 50 OG

by 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Tucked away on the East coast, more than 1,600 miles away from their parent wing, a Schriever geographically separated unit operates the military's only dedicated weather satellite.

Detachment 1, 50th Operations Group, oversees the command and control of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, the Air Force's longest-running satellite program, out of Suitland, Maryland.

Every day, this team provides high-resolution global visible and infrared cloud data and other specialized meteorological, oceanographic and solar-geophysical data for the Department of Defense and civilian users worldwide.

Unlike the larger squadrons here at Schriever, Det. 1 consists of only five active duty Air Force personnel. The rest of the surrounding workforce is mostly civilian.

"Working in an almost entirely civilian facility is unique," said Capt. Jerra Brown, Det. 1 DMSP ground system flight commander. "We're the only Air Force presence in the building."

Brown explained that coordination with mission partners is crucial to their mission success.

"We work side-by-side with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration every day. While Det. 1 retains administrative authority and Satellite Command Authority over the constellation, NOAA provides the operator and support function," she explained.

Beyond NOAA, Det. 1 also works with Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Harris, the Air Force Reserve and NASA. They also work with the remote sensing arm of the Space and Missile Systems Center to work the contracting and acquisition side for program sustainment.

"We basically represent the Air Force here. When people see us, they see the Air Force. It doesn't matter what rank we are," Brown said.

As the newest addition to Det. 1, Brown explained her position is unique because in larger squadrons, a captain may not have the same amount of responsibilities she has.

"I am the primary person making decisions for a $75 million ground system, while helping shape a $9 million system refresh.  I get to make higher level decisions and have a higher level of autonomy than most equivalent company grade officers," she said.

One of the challenges the team faced recently was on the F18 satellite. The sensor experienced an anomaly, which resulted in the loss of a number of temperature sounding channels the Navy uses for weather modeling.

Det. 1 operators and engineers rallied together and identified the issue before the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center reported the problem. Det. 1 ran the anomaly response between a number of the agencies and commenced troubleshooting until the issue was resolved.  At the same time, they conducted operational reporting to 14th Air Force.

Because Det. 1 led and organized this effort, the data was restored and FNMOC continues to execute their mission.

When asked to provide something people at home in Team Schriever might not know about Det. 1, Brown laughingly replied, "that we exist!"

On a more serious note, Brown expressed the most rewarding part of her job is the people she works with.

Capt. Charles Cook, Det. 1 director of operations, also praised the efforts of the small detachment that tackles large responsibilities.

"I think we've got a great team. We work really well together. Everyone is more than willing to bend over backwards for you and help you out," said Cook.

Cook explained that when someone first arrives at Det. 1, the learning curve can be intense. It's important for such a small team to be able to take the time from their personal tasks to assist each other.

"I am insanely proud of them," said Cook.

Although we here in the Springs don't get to see our friends to the East every day, it's important to remember we depend on their DMSP work daily, in and out of the work place. 

It's good to know the sun never sets on Team Schriever.

("The Sun Never Sets" is a series dedicated to highlighting our Globally Separated Units' team members, their contributions to the mission and some of the unique aspects of their sometimes remote locations)

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