NEWS | May 12, 2021

Air Guard unit provides essential satellite communications

By Lt. Col. Mae-Li Allison, Combined Force Space Component Command Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A small Air National Guard squadron perched on a scrub oak-covered hilltop on the central coast of California makes a big contribution to the Combined Force Space Component Command’s (CFSCC) mission to provide space capabilities to the joint warfighter and allied partners.

For nearly 21 years, the 148th Space Operations Squadron (SOPS) has been a caretaker of the Air Force’s protected Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) system, providing 24-hour monitoring and support of the satellites seven days a week.

“Our Air National Guard teammates at the 148th SOPS are well-trained space operators who give our warfighters an essential tool —dependable, secure communications,” said Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, CFSCC commander. “We’re very appreciative of their dedication to this important mission.”

The 148th SOPS is one of two squadrons that oversee the MILSATCOM system.

“We share the mission and satellite command and control responsibilities with the 4th Space Operations Squadron, which is based out of Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado,” said Lt. Col. Sahira DeMarco, the 148th SOPS director of operations. “During our normal operations, we manage three of the 10 MILSATCOM satellites and can take on responsibility for all of them when needed.”

The specific MILSATCOM systems the 4th and 148th SOPS manage and operate are the Military Strategic & Tactical Relay (Milstar) satellites and the newer Advanced Extreme High Frequency (AEHF) satellites. The primary customers for secure satellite communications are combatant commands and the National Command Authority, including the president and the defense secretary.

“A good way to think of us here at Vandenberg is as an extension of the 4th SOPS operations floor,” said Maj. Ruben Carrillo, 148th SOPS chief of operations training. “We take direction from the mission commander there at Schriever, and requests for secure space communications capabilities and effects come through U.S. Space Command through the CFSCC.”

More than 50 Air National Guard personnel are part of the squadron, which has been particularly busy the past couple of years supporting its state mission.

“It is rewarding to accomplish this federal mission day-in and day-out while still maintaining a ready and trained force to support the state emergency response mission,” said Carrillo, who was an active-duty enlisted civil engineer before joining the Air National Guard. “We’ve been very busy in recent years with wildfire support, responding to civil unrest, working in food banks and assisting in COVID vaccine clinics.”

The 148th SOPS is one of three California National Guard space squadrons. The California National Guard is only one of eight National Guard organizations (in seven states and one U.S. territory) that directly contribute to the space mission.

“The National Guard has more than 25 years of experience operating in the space domain,” said Lt. Col. Jeremiah Hitchner, National Guard advisor to the CFSCC commander. “There is no doubt that units like the 148th SOPS are essential to daily space operations and will continue to support our joint and coalition warfighters well into the future.”