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16th SPCS heritage panel commemorates 15 years of space support to U.S., allied warfighters

By Airman First Class Andrew Bertain Peterson-Schriever Garrison

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On Aug. 21 2020, the 16th Space Control Squadron held a heritage panel highlighting 15 years of continuous space operations from a deployed site in the Middle East known as Operation Silent Sentry, providing space electronic warfare capabilities across the spectrum of satellite communications, supporting multiple combatant commands.

The panel consisted of four recently and previously deployed Airmen who conducted operations out of the remote site. The conversation highlighted operational experiences and challenges faced while conducting space electronic warfare operations in U.S. Central Command.

“The overall goal of the panel was to educate the squadron members on our history, where our squadron came from, and gain perspectives of former operators,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew Cullum, 16 SPCS Satellite Control operator.

For the last 15 years, the 16th SPCS continuously deployed operators and maintainers on rotation to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to execute a spectrum overwatch mission. The original operation was planned to run for 120 days, yet still continues.

“There were times in the very beginning when we weren’t even sure if the squadron was going to continue its mission,” said Lt. Col. William Burich, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron commander. “So it is just so cool to sit here and see what it has all become.”

Silent Sentry’s potential was quickly recognized, and it has now surpassed 5,500 days of continuous operations.

“I think anyone who deployed in the first couple years quickly realized how much could be done with [Silent Sentry], and I’m sure my commander at the time was tired of me saying ‘we can do this and this’ to him,” said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron Williams, a panelist and 380th Space Control Squadron superintendent. “I think the reason I am so excited about it is because we are finally seeing all those ideas being possible now, and we have so many young lieutenants and Airmen whose innovation isn’t being kept in a box anymore.”

After the panel, Lt. Col. Angelo Fernandez, 16th SPCS commander, provided closing remarks.

“When you think about this monumental milestone – 15 years of continuous operations – it really makes you think about what has been the important driver…our Airmen,” said Fernandez. “Being able to identify our past and present challenges, and bring [the Airmen] back to the unit, lays the foundation for our Airmen to continue to push the mission and innovate.”