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Year in Review: A year of space milestones

Airmen attend the 16-3 Mission Qualification Training at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, July 5, 2016. The class of 45 students was the second iteration of operators since the wing assumed this training responsibility under Space Mission Force. Every new space operator must graduate from MQT prior to operating their weapons systems.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Rogers)

Airmen attend the 16-3 Mission Qualification Training at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, July 5, 2016. The class of 45 students was the second iteration of operators since the wing assumed this training responsibility under Space Mission Force. Every new space operator must graduate from MQT prior to operating their weapons systems. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Rogers)

Bruce Carlson (right), Boeing technical advisor, and Mike O’Brine (center), Aerospace Corporation, send the final command to dispose of Global Positioning System Satellite Vehicle Number 23 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Both of them were on the operations floor November 1990, when the satellite initially launched and when the solar array stopped working. They, along with the operators working, saved the satellite by tweaking its operating mode, and extended its life to 25 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Darren Domingo)

Bruce Carlson (right), Boeing technical advisor, and Mike O’Brine (center), Aerospace Corporation, send the final command to dispose of Global Positioning System Satellite Vehicle Number 23 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Both of them were on the operations floor November 1990, when the satellite initially launched and when the solar array stopped working. They, along with the operators working, saved the satellite by tweaking its operating mode, and extended its life to 25 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Darren Domingo)

Capt. Justin Lee, 79th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, dons his gear during Red Flag 16-3 exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Monday, June 11, 2016. This year, 115 aircraft from 25 Department of Defense units will be operating at the Nevada Test and Training Range, the Air Force’s premier military training area with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Capt. Justin Lee, 79th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, dons his gear during Red Flag 16-3 exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Monday, June 11, 2016. This year, 115 aircraft from 25 Department of Defense units will be operating at the Nevada Test and Training Range, the Air Force’s premier military training area with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Contractor Jim Brewer and Senior Airman Guillermo Delacruz-Martinez, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, send the disposal command to Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) SVN 35.  The command marked the end of life of the vehicle and was conducted Jun 10, 2016.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Contractor Jim Brewer and Senior Airman Guillermo Delacruz-Martinez, 2nd Space Operations Squadron, send the disposal command to Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) SVN 35. The command marked the end of life of the vehicle and was conducted Jun 10, 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 50th Space Wing vice commander, and the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron celebrate receiving satellite control authority for the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment in Local Space satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Tuesday, July 5, 2016. The satellite, more commonly referred to as ANGELS, is an experimental satellite that tests the boundaries of orbital mechanics and capabilities of space systems. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

Col. Anthony Mastalir, 50th Space Wing vice commander, and the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron celebrate receiving satellite control authority for the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment in Local Space satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Tuesday, July 5, 2016. The satellite, more commonly referred to as ANGELS, is an experimental satellite that tests the boundaries of orbital mechanics and capabilities of space systems. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 50th Space Wing solidified their title as Master of Space in a year marked with many achievements, milestones and history making.

The wing kicked off the year leading Air Force Space Command as the first to successfully achieve Space Mission Force initial capability.  The 50th Operations Group crews "rolled forward" in support of Air Force Space Command's transformation of the entire Space Mission Enterprise Feb. 1, heralding the beginning of a substantial cultural and organizational shift to ensure the entire space force is prepared to fight through and win in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment.

"Through the Space Mission Force construct we are revamping our crews to respond appropriately in a dynamic environment," said Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50 SW commander.  "We are aligning to be more consistent with the Air Force, which will allow us to focus on advanced training to prepare our forces to effectively deal with the threats they have today."

A major component of the shift involved training reorganization. As part of the construct, the responsibility for 50 SW weapon system qualification training transferred from Air Education and Training Command to Air Force Space Command, with the 50th Operations Support Squadron leading the effort locally.

"This is definitely the first time the 50th Space Wing and Schriever Air Force Base have done qualification training," said Randy Saunders, 50 SW historian.

Fifty three students attended the first-ever Space Training Transformation class, which began with a ceremony and orientation April 11.

The 50 OG began for SMF 16-3 Oct. 1, ushering in the newest training classes and space operating crews.

“At the end of the day, I think the rotation is all about balancing the training and quality of life to make our people better. This is a human capital investment. We are investing in our people,” said Doran.

For the first time in the Master of Space's history, the 50 SW conducted a no-notice continuity of operations exercise as part of Opinicus Vista 16-1 March 6-11. The deployment enabled crews to perform operations at their backup facilities.

Led by the Inspector General office, the exercise evaluated the wing's ability to transfer and maintain its mission at multiple forward locations.

"If something happens here, we still have to get the mission done," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremey Hazelwonder, IG wing exercises section chief. "If we lost all our operational capability here, we would have to go to our backup location and be able to set up within a certain amount of time and be able to do the primary mission again."

The 50 SW represented well during Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.  Red Flag 16-3 was a U.S.-only exercise that tested all participating units’ combat capabilities in a joint environment that centered on multi-domain integration. 
 
Burt served as the first-ever space domain leader to command an Air Expeditionary Wing at a Red Flag exercise, a position traditionally staffed by aviators.  She lead the joint operation into accomplishing its main objective of, “establishing habits of achieving multi-domain combat success today to enable the rapid defeat of America’s adversaries tomorrow.”

“We fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.  This is the exercise where we’ll put this to the test,” said Burt. 

50 SW Airmen stayed busy reaching milestones on the operating floors throughout the year as well.

Members of 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons, also known as Team Blackjack, successfully conducted a mission operations transfer Jan. 19-23 to the GPS's alternate location.

Blackjack gathered to support and celebrate the launch of GPS IIF satellite vehicle Number 70, the last of the Block IIF family, Feb. 5. The units also conducted disposal operations for SVN 40 and SVN 37, the second and third weeks of March, respectively. GPS SVN 35 was retired after 22 years June 10. SVN-23 received its final command and disposal Aug. 26.

On April 25, the Air Force’s GPS registered its most accurate signal yet, according to the Aerospace Corporation, which has been monitoring the data since 2002. Using the numbers from a network of NASA-owned, Jet Propulsion Laboratory-operated GPS tracking stations, Aerospace analysts calculated the signal-in-space accuracy of GPS to 38 centimeters.

For the first time ever, satellite control authority for the Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment in Local Space satellite was transferred to the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron here July 1.

The satellite, more commonly referred to as ANGELS, is an experimental satellite that tests the boundaries of orbital mechanics and capabilities of space systems.

Airmen with the 1st Space Operations Squadron witnessed the historic launch of Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites 3 and 4 at 12:47 a.m., Aug. 19, from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The 50 SW also lead a year of innovation and modernization.

“DSCS III B7 is the primary means of personal communications for the NSF,” said Maj. Eric Bogue, 3 SOPS director of operations. “It provides approximately four hours of coverage every day based on its highly-inclined orbit of 9.96 degrees.”

As the year drew to a close, Team 5-0 earned a unit effectiveness inspection rating of “Effective,” following a weeklong capstone evaluation, including eight previous visits in the last two years, the most in AFSPC.

Team 5-0 is only the third AFSPC wing to be examined under the new three-tier Air Force Inspection System’s UEI, an external evaluation of the wing performance based on the four major graded areas. These areas: managing resources, improving the unit, leading people and executing the mission, are further divided into sub-groups. Additionally, the UEI uses a three-tier system – outstanding, effective and ineffective – in rating the MGAs, sub-groups and the wing’s overall score. 

“I am so proud of you,” said Burt, when she addressed the wing during a commander’s call Sept. 26.
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