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Space control squadron team marks 5 years of continuous deployment

by Staff Sgt. Daniel Bava
16th Space Control Squadron

7/13/2010 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- Members of the 16th and 380th Space Control Squadrons acheived a milestone recently when their deployed mission, Operation Silent Sentry, surpassed five years of continuous deployed operations.

The Airmen employ the Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System Deployable Ground Segment Zero to monitor and protect critical satellite communication links throughout Southwest Asia in support of operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom since 2005.

RAIDRS is a defensive space control system designed to detect, characterize and geo-locate sources of interference on these critical communication links to ensure freedom of action in space.

"Originally intended as a 120-day proof of concept demonstration, the prototype was so successful that U.S. Central Command retained the system indefinitely and has fully integrated its effects across the battle space," said Lt. Col. Paul Tombarge, the 16th SPCS commander. "Our deployed teams work directly for the Combined Forces Air Component commander and execute mission operations as directed on the air tasking order to support a multitude of operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility."

Space effects and satellite communications capabilities have become a critical integrator and enabler on the modern battlefield and are vital to the way the military prosecutes combat operations. Helping to produce these full-spectrum of effects are an array of satellites, satellite communications terminals and a communications architecture. Together, they provide the Combined Forces Air Component commander critical oversight of forward deployed forces and employment of unique weapon systems.

Five years after initial deployment, the success of Operation Silent Sentry is evolving into a new phase as 16th and 380th Space Control Squadron members prepare for arrival of the next generation system, RAIDRS Block 10.

With the Block 10 system, operators will employ a worldwide network of transportable sensors from a central operating location on Peterson Air Force Base, integrating data from multiple theaters around the globe into a single operations center.

The first portion of the new system is scheduled to begin operations this summer. Continuing to man and grow a deployed mission while operationalizing a new, cutting edge capability presents unique challenges and opportunities.

The five year anniversary of deployed operations and pending arrival of Block 10 are historic, said Staff Sgt. Kyle Snyder, the 16th SPCS NCO in charge of operations training.

"I remember the early days when Silent Sentry was a piece of test equipment, but it has surpassed expectations to become an evolved system which sets the bar for the future."

Having deployed twice with Operation Silent Sentry, Sergeant Snyder said he appreciates the benefits of a system operated locally.

"Being able to remotely control geographically separated equipment will help reduce our deployment requirements and will ease stress on the families of those who are so often tasked to deploy in support of our mission," he said.

Despite the pending arrival of the follow-on system, members of the 16th and 380th Space Control Squadrons will continue to deploy personnel in support of Operation Silent Sentry.

"I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to directly contribute to the fight from a forward deployed location," said Capt. Benjamin Kearney, a crew commander on his first deployment. "I am deployed with the finest group of space, intelligence and maintenance personnel the Air Force has to offer and there is no doubt in my mind that I will always remember this experience."

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