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Reserve experts complete second-to-last GPS IIF Launch

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.
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