SMDC History: 20th anniversary of the creation of 1st SATCON Battalion

By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianMay 18, 2015

SMDC History: 20th anniversary of the creation of 1st SATCON Battalion
Until 2011, Camp Roberts, California, Defense Satellite Communication System Operations Center was home to Charlie Company, 1st SATCON Battalion. It later became part of the 53rd Signal Battalion. The 1st SATCON Battalion ensures that all users of th... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

As the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command conducts its Holistic Space Assessment, which is looking at force structure and modernization among other issues, it is interesting to reflect upon the origins of Army Space.

The Army Space Command, or ARSPACE, stood up in April 1988 as a field operating agency of the deputy chief of staff for operations and plans.

As the Army component of U.S. Space Command, ARSPACE was to provide the Army perspective in planning for Department of Defense space support and ensure the integration of Army requirements into joint planning for space support and "conduct planning for DoD space operations in support of Army strategic, operational and tactical missions."

A relatively small organization, they were soon put to the test. The new command was instrumental in bringing space assets to the Warfighter during Operation Desert Storm -- the first "Space War." The impact was immediate.

Following the war, new operational missions, such as the Army Space Support Teams and the Joint Tactical Ground Stations, became key elements of Army space program.

Organizationally however, ARSPACE remained a command, a Tables of Distribution and Allowances, or TDA, organization aligned in offices and directorates according to mission, rather than a traditional Army operational unit.

This all changed May 1, 1995. On that date, ARSPACE's Military Satellite Communications Directorate or MILSATCOM Directorate became the 1st Satellite Control, or SATCON, Battalion -- the first Army battalion with an operational mission tied to space systems and capabilities.

The 1st SATCON, like its predecessor, was responsible for the planning and controlling the networks and payload of the Defense Satellite Communication System, or DSCS, satellites.

While many of the ARSPACE missions were still evolutionary in construct, the Army's DSCS mission dates to 1962 with the deployment of the first satellites in the Initial Defense Satellite Communications Program and has continued to develop ever since.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the DSCS III constellation was "the backbone of the U.S. military's global satellite communications capabilities…, providing nuclear hardened, anti-jam, high data rate, long haul communications users worldwide" through established ground terminals and the growing number of transportable tactical and shipboard terminals.

Operation Desert Storm effectively demonstrated the opportunities of space based communications and the requirements for DSCS satellite support quadrupled from 1990 to1995 alone.

Therefore ARSPACE leadership determined that, "the time has arrived to recognize the scope and depth of responsibility and control of those elements charged with the execution of the DSCS program."

As outlined in the concept plan, recognition of these significant roles and responsibilities could only come with the conversion of the staff directorate to a TDA battalion. In keeping with the Army's downsizing efforts, however, this streamlined battalion would continue to receive support in administrative staff operations from the ARSPACE headquarters.

The 1st SATCON Battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Lynn Weber, reflected the mission's existing geographical structure with five DSCS operations centers located around the globe.

On the East Coast in Maryland were A and B Companies at Fort Detrick and Fort Meade respectively. Meanwhile C Company was located in Landstuhl, Germany.

Covering the Pacific were D Company on Camp Roberts, California, and E Company stationed on Fort Buckner, Japan. With its network constellation, 1st SATCON could proudly proclaim "We control the high ground."

Although 1st SATCON Battalion holds special recognition as the first operational space unit in the Army, it was not alone for long. The contributions of space Soldiers soon warranted an entire space brigade for as Secretary of the Army Togo West observed in 1994 "The Army's future is inextricably tied to space."

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