REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – Despite the many challenges created by 2020’s coronavirus pandemic including learning news ways to operate and accomplish the mission, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command remained focused on providing space, missile defense and high altitude capabilities that enable multi-domain operations so combatant commanders can effectively maneuver and win.
“It has been a tremendous honor and a privilege to be able to serve as the commander especially at a time where missile defense and Army space are as relevant as I’ve ever seen them,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, USASMDC commanding general. “Combine that with the COVID environment that we have been operating under for the last nine months, it has given me an opportunity to see how well we do as an organization and how well we pull together as a team when the circumstances are tough and the environment is changing. It really emphasizes to me that we are a well-trained organization, and we really embrace the ability to be flexible, adaptable and agile to our circumstances.”
Karbler said the command’s agility enabled units to take extra precautions to maintain readiness while protecting the health and safety of Army personnel, their families and the civilian workforce.
“I am glad to say that COVID really didn’t affect our readiness,” Karbler said. “We knew we had to stay ready 24/7. We do the most critical strategic missions within the Department of Defense, whether that’s missile warning or to be able to respond to an intercontinental ballistic missile attack from our adversaries. We can’t afford to take a day off, or take a week off, or take a month off, or allow COVID to impact our readiness.”
In August, the command recognized its Army Service Component Command relationship with U.S. Space Command with a flag unfurling ceremony at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. This formalized the supporting role USASMDC had already been serving and underscored that space is now a contested warfighting domain.
“The Army’s space forces that we provide to Space Command, whether it’s from the Satellite Operations Brigade to 1st Space Brigade – we are the owner of those Army forces, and my duty is to make sure they’re trained and ready for warfighting operations to support Space Command,” Karbler said during the ceremony. “We move, shoot and communicate based on space-enabled capabilities.”
The SATOPS Brigade provided some of those space-based capabilities in the form of satellite communication support to various customers across the country throughout 2020 with additional support for COVID-19 responses.
“Our SATOPS Brigade provided support to the U.S. Navy hospital ships that the president directed to be deployed, and they had to make sure that they allocated bandwidth to those hospital ships so that telemedicine could be done onboard,” Karbler said. “Telemedicine cannot be done without a sufficient amount of satellite bandwidth to support video feeds and information that has to flow from the ships.”
In June, when NASA launched American astronauts into space from American soil for the first time in more than a decade, the SATOPS Brigade’s Regional Satellite Communications Support Center-West at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, processed the first U.S. Space Command request for satellite communications to directly support this mission.
“All year, the Satellite Operations Brigade Soldiers were on call 24/7, never missing a beat to ensure we provide satellite communications capability,” Karbler said.
Another area of focus for the command is supporting tests of the nation’s missile defense capabilities. Throughout the year, the command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, participated in several Department of Defense missions including a hypersonic vehicle test and missile defense tests.
One of these tests, Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44, or FTM-44, included Karbler’s other command, the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense. RTS and JFCC IMD worked alongside U.S. Navy ballistic missile defense forces as they intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative intercontinental ballistic missile target with a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA during a flight test demonstration northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 17.
During the mission, RTS provided the target launch location; target launch services, such as safety, weather and logistics; and the collection of truth data for determination of system performance.
One accomplishment for the command could be considered trailblazing. The 100th Missile Defense Brigade received the U.S. Strategic Command Omaha Trophy for Global Operations at Peterson Air Force Base, Nov. 19. This is the first time an Army unit and the first time an Army National Guard unit has been selected for this prestigious honor, which recognizes outstanding support to the USSTRATCOM mission of strategic deterrence.
Additional USASMDC significant successes in 2020 are:
• Joint Tactical Ground Stations provided early warning for American Soldiers and international partners during an Iranian theater ballistic missile attack on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq in January.
• The Technical Center broke ground in March for a 5,800-square-foot Technology Complex facility on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, that will enable the Army to stay on the forefront of technology.
• Army Astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan departed the International Space Station to return to earth April 17 following his 272-day mission in space.
• The Space and Missile Defense School earned the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s fully accredited status.
• The command established the SMDC Underserved Community Cybersecurity and Engineering Education Development, or SUCCEED, program, which will expand opportunities for students attending historically black colleges and universities as well as underserved community high schools in Alabama by offering development opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
“It’s been a great year with a lot of great accomplishments,” Karbler said. “I wish I had a good crystal ball because no one told me that a month into my command we were going to be responding to Iranian missile attacks into Iraq, or we were going to be dealing with a COVID-environment that was going to totally turn things on their head with respect to readiness and training and teleworking and you name it.
“What I do know for the next year is that the talented team we have at SMDC will continue to respond to the call,” he added. “They will continue to respond to the needs of the nation to provide Army space capabilities as well as provide missile defense.”