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Space brings invisible power to the fight

by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
50th Space Wing Public Affairs

8/7/2006 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- When space professionals deploy, they learn how to better provide combat effects, and warfighters learn more about the invisible power space brings to the fight. 

"It's not good enough to fly satellites from afar," said Lt. Col. John Shaw, the 4th Space Operations Squadron commander. "We need to understand how our systems have an impact on warfighters around the world. That understanding allows us to better deliver combat effects from space." 

Capt. Johnnie Mason, a communications flight commander with the 4th SOPS, came back with a new understanding of who the warfighters are. He deployed to Southwest Asia to command a communications flight made up of servicemembers and contractors. 

"The makeup of deployed forces has changed to include not only guardsmen and reservists, but government civilians and contractors as well," he said. 

Captain Mason's team established the first network control center at its location and set up radio communications systems that warfighters will use to carry out their missions for several years. 

Staff Sgt. Tina Miller, a radio communications craftsman with the 4th SOPS, recently returned from a joint deployment to Djibouti, which borders Somalia in northeast Africa. She worked as part of the task force's command, control, communications and computers directorate. American forces there are helping build infrastructure such as schools and water pumps in the republic of about 486,000 people. 

"(My deployment) helped me see the other side of the coin," Sergeant Miller said. "When I'm here on base, sometimes I don't feel like I contribute a lot to the fight against terrorism. But over there, I realized how much we help people in the field and personnel overseas." 

Captain Mason and Sergeant Miller are representative of the 4th SOPS Airmen who deployed in support of Aerospace Expeditionary Force 9. The squadron sent one-tenth  of its total force -- satellite operators, communications specialists and administrative personnel -- to locations around the world as part of its commitment to the war on terrorism. 

"We're not only sending people to do the expeditionary mission on the ground," Colonel Shaw said, "but we're also getting them back with a better understanding about overseas operations. It allows us to better provide the capabilities warfighters need to execute their mission."

The learning experience is not one-way. 

"The best way to increase visibility of our mission to those deployed is ... to work alongside them," Colonel Shaw said.

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