WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- If an adversary launches a missile, the U.S. Army's 1st Space Battalion will detect it within seconds, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Manuel Marrero.
The Army has that capability worldwide thanks to thousands of satellites in space that are fitted with infrared sensors that can detect the heat signature of a launched missile; once detected, the signature's infrared data is downlinked to a Joint Tactical Ground Station, or JTAGS.
Four JTAGS sites conduct the monitoring, Marrero said: one in Europe, one in the Middle East and two in the Pacific region. The JTAGS headquarters, where Marrero works as the training and evaluations officer-in-charge, is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado,.
"[The] biggest takeaway from operating in the space domain is that it's a 24/7 operation," he said. "We're always live, always real."
Normal Army units train and prepare for exercises or operations, then deploy, return, reset and then do it all over again, he pointed out. Space is very different. Adversaries don't necessarily fire missiles on normal duty hours. That means training and live missions must take place concurrently.
In addition to managing all of the training, all of the evaluations, all of the certification of every space operator, Marrero is the resident subject-matter expert.
"You have to constantly sustain training as people are requalified and ensure that they know what to do in certain situations," he explained. "You're not tested and then good to go for a few years. You have to qualify every few months."
Since Marrero joined the Army in 1999, he has deployed a number of times, including to Korea, Kuwait, Iraq and Qatar. The father of four children, ages 4, 8, 10 and 12, he jokes that you can determined where the deployments were if you calculate their ages.
Manning the home front is his stalwart wife, Mayda. She was a military brat and her father is a retired Army master sergeant, so she's familiar with the deployment routine, he said.
Marrero has held a number of different jobs over the years, including a tour as a drill sergeant. He also was a space crewmember at a JTAGS and later ran the Korea JTAGS site for three years. He now manages all of the JTAGS sites.
One of the best decisions he's ever made, he said, is deciding to become a warrant officer.
"There are situations where you have to develop NCOs and advise commanders," he said. "And the officers lean on you for technical advice, especially the younger officers, because you've seen so much. You've seen some things work; you've seen some things not work."
Q: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
A: Born and raised in New York City, the Bronx to be specific.
Q: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: No doubt, second basemen for the New York Yankees.
Q: Did you have any nicknames from friends or family when you were growing up?
A: I have always gone by Manny.
Q: Do you have any family members who have served in the military?
A: My cousin is an O-6 in the Dominican Republican army. Also, my cousin's husband is an O-7 with the same army and is head of security for the vice president of the Dominican Republic.
Q: What inspired you to join the Army?
A: I was 17 when I joined and, to be frank, I was lost as a teen. Worked a few jobs in retail and needed something else to challenge me. I was approached by a recruiter during one of many walking sessions along Fordham Road in the Bronx, and the rest is history.
Q: When you first joined the Army, what was your job?
A: I was an early warning systems operator, working primarily in Short Range Air Defense or SHORAD for short.
Q: How did you come to work for the Army Space and Missile Defense Command?
A: Originally in 2003, as an engagement control team leader for JTAGS. I spent three years with the organization and then proceeded to drill sergeant school/duty. Returned as a chief warrant for JTAGS Korea as the OIC and C2 Systems Integrator. Spent three years in Korea and was assigned to the 1st Space Company where I have dual-hatted for the battalion on all JTAGS matters. I've been in Colorado Springs for a little over a year and will move up to the 1st Space Battalion permanently this October.
Q: How do you feel working in the 1st Space Battalion has helped to broaden your professional development?
A: Tremendously. In this organization the "blinders" are off. You truly see the entire spectrum of our operations and get real insight into how our military truly fights. I spent many years in the "conventional" force which helps bring perspective to space, but without a doubt I have definitely learned more from it than it from me.
Q: What do you miss the most and least about your hometown?
A: I visit regularly, but obviously I have missed some family events.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement both personally and professionally?
A: Being a father to four perfect kids is the single greatest thing I continue to do. I also am enrolled in a graduate program and look to finish very soon. Professionally, I have been lucky and accomplished many great things during my 17 years of service. Being a drill sergeant helping civilians transition into military life was definitely a huge achievement for me.
Q: What is your favorite movie quote and why?
A: I watch a lot of movies, so this is hard. Maybe, "I feel the need, the need for speed" from "Top Gun." I love that movie. It's about overcoming fear, dealing with tough situations and, although not executing perfectly immediately after, continuing to move forward in the right direction. This is true in life.
Q: What is your favorite song or artist that if you were alone, you might get caught singing along?
A: Probably Back Street boys, "I want it that way." I'm a New Yorker and lived through the boy band days down in Times Square with MTV "Total Request Live."
Q: What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not at work?
A: Recently, it's been camping. Not much camping growing up, but living in Colorado has helped our family explore the great outdoors.
Q: If you had one wish, what would it be and why?
A: That my mother was here. She passed away in 2003.
Q: What superhero power do you think would be great to have and why?
A: I would like to immediately fully comprehend all the languages of the world. I travel a lot and imagine how one's experience would change if you could communicate with any and everyone on the planet.