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50th OG claims Chennault Trophy

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 50th Operations Group here has won the Lieutenant General Claire Chennault Trophy for the first time since 2003 for its efforts in modernizing its space systems and improving the combat effects it delivers for warfighters. 

The trophy, which recognizes the best operations group in 14th Air Force, is named after Lt. Gen. Claire Chennault, who organized volunteer pilots into a fighting force in East Asia before and after World War II and who later became the first commander of 14th Air Force. 

"It's extraordinary that our Airmen have been so successful during historic modernization and operations tempos," said 50th OG commander Col. Clinton Crosier. "Not only did our people persevere, they excelled, and I'm very proud of all of them for that." 

Several efforts were keystones in 50th OG's recent modernization efforts, but the effort that had the least impact was lauded as the most successful. In October, the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons and the Space and Missile Systems Center migrated command and control of GPS from a 22-year-old legacy system to a new Architecture Evolution Plan. The new system will allow space operators to continue to provide the world's most accurate timing and navigation signal, Colonel Crosier said. 

"Just imagine the international consequences if that eight-hour (transition) period had not gone right," he said. "We had plans in place so that we could fall back to the legacy system gracefully, but once we transitioned, we never had to go back. 

"The people who worked on the transition have a mantra: 'We changed the world, and nobody noticed.' We changed the way we employ GPS, culminating a seven-year transition in a day, and no one noticed. That's extraordinary." 

Many of the same people who worked on the AEP transition also made 2nd SOPS' Launch, Anomaly and Disposal Operations system a reality. The LADO system allows 2nd SOPS and 19 SOPS operators to control a GPS satellite from cradle to grave - from minutes after launch until the satellite is retired into an out-of-the-way orbit. It performed so strongly during a GPS launch in October that Lt. Gen. William Shelton, the commander of 14th Air Force, decommissioned the previous Command and Control System only 60 days later. 

"Through all this, the same group in many cases was still flying the active GPS constellation and providing the best navigation signal the world has seen," Colonel Crosier said. 

The other space operations squadrons have been similarly busy with modernization. The first Wideband Global SATCOM satellite launched in October 2007, and 3rd SOPS took control of the satellite in January. WGS represents the first new satellite system in the 50th Space Wing in more than 10 years. Fourth SOPS continues its preparation for the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, and 1st SOPS is preparing for the launch of the Space Based Surveillance System. Both are scheduled to launch later this year or early 2009. 

"Four of Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley's top five space modernization priorities are right here in 50th OG," Colonel Crosier said. "But we're not sitting still with combat effects - we're making our combat effects better than ever before." 

Colonel Crosier cited Talon Namath as an example. The system provides the most up-to-date GPS data available to F-15 Eagle pilots, increasing the navigational accuracy of the Air Force's new Small Diameter Bomb by more than 80 percent. In addition, the group created a new system to push GPS data to isolated special operations forces via 4th SOPS' Milstar satellites. The group's efforts even played a role in the success of Operation Burnt Frost, the U.S. operation that shot down a failing reconnaissance satellite in February. 

The Midcourse Space Experiment, operated by 1st SOPS, has been a strategic asset, identifying space objects and feeding that information back to the Joint Space Operations Center," Colonel Crosier explained. The 1st SOPS Weapons and Tactics Flight got approval from the Joint Space Operations Center to track the failing satellite with MSX's onboard optical telescope. MSX was able to observe the failing satellite and measure its tumble rate so that the Joint Forces Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense could effectively target its fuel tank. 

Fourth SOPS improved its ability to support warfighters by redeploying four of its five Milstar satellites. The operation required Airmen to deploy with the Ground Mobile-3 vehicle to Guam; the team found a way to deploy aboard a C-17 Globemaster rather than a larger C-5 Galaxy, saving the Air Force more than $700,000. 

"Those are just a few of the lean-forward ways where we've asked how we can better support users' needs," Colonel Crosier said. "When I spent 3½ years here as a captain in 3rd SOPS, not once did I talk to a communications user. Not once did we ask, 'How can we better use our systems to better deliver combat effects to warfighters?' We're pushing the envelope of combat effects that we provide." 

Officials with AFSPC's Directorate of Air, Space and Information Operations lauded 50th OG's efforts as "AFSPC's number-one warfighter outreach program," according to the Chennault Trophy award package. AFSPC/A3 also praised 50th OG's Weapons and Tactics Program, which has been an integral part of the efforts to extend combat effects in new ways. 

An Air Force Space Command Inspector General team also made note of 50th OG's efforts as it evaluated how the 50th OG does business. The group came out of the recent Operational Readiness Inspection with more strengths and professional teams than any space operations group since 2005, Colonel Crosier said. 

"Out of 249 evaluations, we had a 99.6-percent pass rate - that's as high as I've seen anywhere," he added. 

The group has also balanced its modernizations and operations tempo with a significant number of deployments. Fifty-nine people deployed to nine countries in 2007, contributing directly to the Air Force's effort to win the Global War on Terrorism. 

"Every deployed person impacts our deployed-in-place mission," Colonel Crosier said. "So every time we send someone forward, it's a large contribution, and we're proud of that." Airmen deployed from 50th OG have provided space-based combat effects to the Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia, have supported communication needs in U.S. Central Command and have even been part of convoy teams. 

Colonel Crosier is scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., near the Memorial Day weekend to receive the Chennault Trophy. 

"I look forward to taking possession of the Chennault Trophy on behalf of all the men and women of 50th OG and bringing the trophy back to Schriever where it belongs," he said.
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