REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- They are the first line of defense in case of an attack on a space-based satellite. They are global. They are the Soldiers of the 53rd Signal Battalion, 1st Space Brigade.
The 53rd Signal Battalion is the oldest operational battalion in the 1st Space Brigade and the only unit in the Department of Defense that conducts payload and transmission control of the Defense Satellite Communications System and Wideband Global System satellite constellations. The management of these constellations by the battalion ensures continuous communications connectivity for mission critical subscribers from the president, to troops, to national agencies.
"They are the first line of defense should an adversary attempt to disrupt the SATCOM links provided by the WGS and DSCS satellite constellations," said Col. Richard L. Zellmann, 1st Space Brigade commander. "These are $300 million satellites with users as high as the president, and this is a typical day for the Soldiers in the 53rd Signal Battalion."
"The 53rd's service members are globally dispersed, manning [Wideband Satellite Operations Centers] positioned in U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command and continental U.S. locations in order to provide global wideband payload control, transmissions control and defensive space control," added Lt. Col. Glenn O. Mellor, 53rd Signal Battalion commander.
Mellor said through the provision of wideband military satellite communications, the battalion first and foremost enables the mission command warfighting function and supports all other warfighting functions through the provision of these services.
"Space operations are critical to the success of the Army in many ways, from supporting operations through intelligence collection, to providing protection through missile warning to the enabling of communications to the Warfighter," he said. "The 53rd provides and ensures global wideband military satellite communications in a contested, degraded operational environment contributing to the success of our forces and their mission."
More than 70 percent of weapons and equipment have a degree of reliance on a space-based service or capability. Activities within mission command, intelligence, and fires warfighting functions have the most significant dependencies on space.
The purpose and value of space superiority is to provide the freedom of action to apply space capabilities in the pursuit and defense of national security interests. America's ability to capitalize on and protect space systems and counter enemy capabilities contributes to U.S. military space superiority.
To maintain space superiority, joint forces must have space situational awareness of all factors that could impact space activities and have the knowledge, training, resources, and authorities needed to defend the ability of the U.S. and its allies to use space.
Besides the United States and its forces, Mellor said the battalion's WSOCs support troops from Australia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Czech Republic, Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand, providing wideband military satellite communications control thanks to partnerships and the development of memorandums of understanding between the United States and these partner nations.
"The 53rd could not do this alone; the support we get from the 1st Space Brigade, SMDC leadership and staff, and Signal Cyber Center of Excellence is invaluable and helps the Soldiers continue to perform this extremely unique mission," Mellor said.
Additionally, the signal battalion is a coalition and joint unit, with service members from the U.S. Army, Royal Australian navy, Royal Australian air force and Australian regular army serving within the battalion.
"The Australian Coalition Partnership Program is a huge success for this battalion," Mellor said. "The 10 personnel from the Royal Australian navy, Royal Australian air force and Australian regular army are a well-received addition to the formation. They are exceptionally qualified technicians and add a unique perspective and heritage to the battalion."
The battalion's senior enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Mary A. Carr, shared her thoughts on how the Soldiers provide seamless access to America's satellite constellations for members across the DOD as well as allied forces.
"We ensure that end users have the communications resources they need to execute their missions any time, day or night, and stand by every minute of every day to ensure that if support is needed, they are there to provide it, she said. "We simultaneously coordinate with our service partners to ensure the health of the satellites themselves. In addition to these efforts, 53rd Soldiers also conduct an ongoing cycle of training, preparation and leader development in order to produce the type of leaders to ensure that we remain first in space."
Carr discussed the battalion's mission in providing global wideband payload control, transmissions control and defensive space control in ensuring the DoD Wideband Satellite Constellations continuous support during peacetime, contingency, surge and crisis action plans supporting DOD, U.S. government agencies and allied partners.
"To put it simply, a satellite communications network without satellite systems and network coordinators of the 53rd would be a like an airport without air traffic controllers," Carr said. "Satellite control Soldiers are the hub of the communications wheel, and without them the wheel would simply fall apart. Satellite control is an extremely complex and exact science, and the workload that coordinators take off of the tactical operator by executing their control mission is enormous."
"The 53rd wants to put the communicator in the field in the best tactical position possible, and we do that by doing all of the background work, coordination and system management so that all a Soldier in the field has to do is access the satellite and stay in the fight," she added. "We do the rest."
It is this mission of "doing the rest" that makes Carr, Mellor, and Zellman extremely proud of each of the Soldiers in the battalion.
"The national and strategic importance of the Army's only satellite control battalion and the capabilities that we provide enhances a meaningful purpose in conducting our 24-hour mission and aides in the success of our nation," Mellor said. "I am incredibly proud of the dedication of our service members and the importance of our strategic mission."