PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colorado – Former and remaining Soldiers of the 53rd Signal Battalion cased their unit colors for the last time on Dec. 5 at Peterson Space Force Base.
Established June 1, 1941, at Camp Bowie, Texas, the 53rd Signal Battalion provided secure communications for American service members and their allies in the European campaign during World War II. In the 1960s its mission transitioned to satellite operations, and on Aug. 15, the U.S. Army’s satellite communications mission officially transferred to the U.S. Space Force.
Prior to the casing ceremony, the 53rd Signal Battalion was the oldest operational battalion under the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, first in the 1st Space Brigade before transferring to the Army’s Satellite Operations Brigade in 2019. It was the only unit in the Department of Defense that conducted payload and transmission control of the Defense Satellite Communications System and Wideband Global System satellite constellations. The management of these constellations by the battalion ensured continuous communications connectivity for mission critical subscribers from the president, to troops, to national agencies.
“Sometimes units are reflagged, sometimes they’re reactivated, and sometimes they’re relegated to the pages of history, but their legacies endure,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general of USASMDC. “Now, in 2022, both figuratively and literally speaking, Army space Soldiers are among the first to the fight, and also among the last to leave.”
The globally dispersed 53rd Signal Battalion manned Wideband Satellite Operations Centers positioned in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. European Command and continental U.S. locations to provide global wideband payload control, transmissions control and defensive space control. The battalion enabled mission command warfighting functions while supporting all other warfighting functions through the provision of these services.
“It’s always difficult to divest resources and, most especially, people, but consolidation of the Army’s satellite mission under the U.S. Space Force umbrella was carefully considered and measured against the status quo,” Karbler said. “The ultimate decision to transfer doesn’t invalidate the incredible contributions of the SATOPS Brigade or 53rd, if anything, it speaks to the enormous expertise within. Through its faithful performance of satellite payload and transmissions control functions, the 53rd has ensured America’s dominance in competition and future victory on the battlefield.”
The battalion was first inactivated Sept. 30, 1945, in Italy. It was activated again Sept. 21, 1954, at Fort Hood, Texas, and then inactivated on June 23, 1971, at Fort Lewis, Washington. Finally, it was reactivated 34 years later on Oct. 16, 2005, at Peterson Air Force Base.
The battalion’s history of campaign participation credits include: France, Italy, and Tunisia during World War II; multiple counter offensives during the Vietnam War; and recently supported the warfighter in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn.
Maj. Nathan B. Gadberry, 53rd Signal Battalion commander, said the deactivation should be looked at as a beginning to go on to new opportunities and not an ending. He also spoke about how proud he was of them and wished them the best for the future.
“I believe our Soldiers are brilliant and most definitely awesome in everything they do,” Gadberry said. “I have never seen a group of individuals so dedicated to the mission they are performing. Our Soldiers are amazing day in and day out.”