Former commander visits SATCON Soldiers
September 18, 2013
FORT DETRICK, Md. -- One former commander took time to visit the unit he once led into combat more than 45 years ago.
Retired Lt. Col. Karl Richard Brunner Jr. and his wife, Cynthia, visited Soldiers of A Company, 53rd Signal Battalion (Satellite Control) at Fort Detrick, Md., June 19. Brunner visited the A Company, Wideband Satellite Communication Operation Center, or WSOC, to share the history of the unit and to learn what today's Soldiers are doing in defense of the nation.
The battalion's current mission is to provide wideband payload control; transmissions control with customer service; defensive space control; and enable platform control ensuring the Department of Defense wideband satellite constellations' continuous 24-hour support to peacetime, contingency, and crisis action plans by operating, maintaining, and sustaining a WSOC. They also provide defensive space control supporting U.S. Strategic Command's ability to assure access of DoD-leased commercial satellite transmission paths of interest.
Alpha Company currently conducts payload and transmission control of both the Defense Satellite Communications System and Wideband Global Satellite constellations to ensure quality satellite communications on a global scale.
Brunner joined the 53rd Signal Bn. at Fort Hood, Texas, in February 1966 where he was assigned as the S-4 by the late Lt. Col. Thomas C. Kearns, then the battalion commander. After pre-deployment activities, the unit deployed to Long Binh, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1966.
"I was in the 'advance party,' a modest sized contingent that flew via C-141 Starlifter from Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, via Wake Island, to Bien Hoa Air Force Base, Vietnam," Brunner said. "Our in-country mission was as the Corps Signal Battalion for Headquarters, II Field Force Vietnam. In June 1966, I took command of Company A, command operations, and held that position until May 1967.
During a visit to Fort Detrick, Md., Brunner was told about the current mission of the 53rd Signal Bn. and learned how the organization and mission have changed over the past five decades.
"The organization and mission of the 53rd Signal Bn., as a SATCON unit, is completely different from when it was a tactical signal battalion that provided voice and record communications between a corps headquarters and its subordinate units in Vietnam," he said.
Brunner talked about what he noticed as some of the changes from the Soldiers he served with to the Soldiers currently serving in the unit.
"The mission of the present-day 53rd Signal Bn., I think, requires a higher level of technical training and expertise than what was required for the type of unit it was in Vietnam," Brunner said. "I think the Soldiers, who were for the most part drafted into the service, of the Vietnam-era were just as resilient, smart, dedicated and resourceful for what needed to be accomplished then and there. You really can't compare the Soldiers of the two units that easily, as what was required was totally different in terms of the era, the equipment, and the type of mission."
He also discussed what impressed him the most about the current unit and its Soldiers.
"There is a high level of 'smarts' exhibited by all the Soldiers I met, and professionalism was obvious," Brunner said. "I was impressed with the high caliber and quality of the Soldiers I interfaced with during my visit. All I spoke with were very knowledgeable of their equipment, the unit organization and mission.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the 53rd Signal Bn.," he added. "Coincidentally, Fort Detrick was my first duty station in the U.S. Army after completing the Signal Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth, N.J., in July 1960. I was assigned to what was then the U.S. Army Communications Agency, Detachment 2, East Coast Relay Station; a new, at that time, tenant unit on Fort Detrick."
The A Company's current commander was appreciative of Brunner's visit and what it meant to the Soldiers in the unit.
"Lt. Col. Brunner visited the site to provide some insight on the history of A Company and to be able to see the advances and changes to the unit," said Capt. Mark T. Anderson, A Company, 53rd Signal Bn. (SATCON) commander. "The Soldiers of Alpha Company were interested to hear about the unit's lineage. We wear the Meritorious Unit Commendation on our Army service uniform in recognition of our unit's accomplishments in World War II and Vietnam. Lt. Col. Brunner's visit was a great reminder of why we wear this unit award and what the Soldiers before us accomplished.
"It is important for us to know the history of the unit that we serve in," he added. "It is that history that builds the bond that we share as members of the U.S. Army."
Another Soldier said he was grateful of all those who served before and was honored to be a part of a unit with such a storied history.
"Learning about the history of the 53rd Signal Bn. and the role that it played in the shaping of the signal corps during the Vietnam conflict gave me a better appreciation of its lineage and how it adds to the history of what used to be the 1st SATCON Battalion," said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Sanker, A Company, 53rd Signal Bn. operations noncommissioned officer.
Brunner will be returning to the WSOC Sept. 24 to speak at a battalion leader professional development session via videoteleconference to share more about the history of the 53rd Signal Bn.