A Signal Celebration

By DJ Montoya, 1st Space BrigadeOctober 25, 2010

A Signal Celebration
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PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - A small gathering of Army Space signaleers took advantage of a warm sunny Colorado fall day to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the 53rd Signal Battalion's activation and the 1st Satellite Control Battalion's inactivation at Peak View Park on the east end of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Oct. 15.

After a celebratory picnic for Soldiers, family members, civilians and guests from the 53rd Signal Bn. in Colorado Springs, members of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command came together for the official portion of the program.

Lt. Jessica Handloff, the battalion adjutant, began the ceremony by reading the 53rd Signal Bn. lineage as it was constituted on Oct. 18, 1927, in the Regular Army.

The battalion was activated June 1, 1941, at Camp Bowie, Texas, and inactivated Sept. 30, 1945, in Italy. It was activated again Sept. 21, 1954, at Fort Hood, Texas, and then inactivated June 23, 1971, at Fort Lewis, Wash. Finally, it was reactivated 34 years later on Oct. 16, 2005, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The 53rd has a long history of campaign participation credits to include: France, Italy, and Tunisia during World War II; multiple counter offensives during the Vietnam War; and is recently supporting the warfighter in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

It 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 of the United States to the Warfighters and the national agencies engaged in the Global War on Terrorism.

Soldiers of this globally dispersed battalion accomplish this vital mission from Wideband Satellite Operations Centers located at Fort Detrick and Fort Meade, Md.; Landstuhl, Germany, Camp Roberts, Calif.; Wahiawa, Hawaii; Fort Buckner, Okinawa, Japan; and a DSCS Certification Facility located on Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. The battalion is headquartered in the USASMDC/ARSTRAT operations headquarters on Peterson Air Force Base.

Lt. Col. Benjamin C. Jones, commander of the 53rd, addressed the group saying, "We have had some recent significant events in the battalion including the activation of the first three wideband global satellites, the last occurring on the 24th of June, one day after I took command. Additionally we have a new WSOC that is currently being prepared for operation in Wahiawa, Hawaii, which our Delta Company is standing up."

He pointed out that Delta Company will maintain operations at both their Camp Roberts, and Wahiawa sites as they conduct final installation testing before cutting over to the Wahiawa site and closing the Camp Roberts site. The battalion also has new WSOC facilities planned. Work is already underway at Alpha Company, Fort Detrick, which will be followed by new facilities at Bravo Company in Fort Meade, and Charlie Company in Landstuhl.

"The 53rd Signal Battalion is one of the most wide-reaching and one of the most important signal battalions in the U.S. Army today," Jones said. "The outstanding group of Soldiers and civilians from the 53rd present today are representing the entire battalion. Headquarters and Headquarters Company is split between Peterson where the battalion staff resides and Schriever where HHC Soldiers perform their daily mission and stand ready to deploy on their world-wide deployment mission.

"All of my folks here in Colorado Springs perform vital roles within the battalion, but in total they comprise less than 15 percent of our total battalion strength. We are globally dispersed so saying the sun never sets on the 53rd Signal Battalion certainly holds true."

Guest speaker for the event was retired Lt. Col. Lynn Weber, the first commander of the 1st Satellite Control Battalion.

Weber briefed the audience on the beginnings of U.S. Army Space Command (ARSPACE) in 1985 and the events leading up to the creation of the 1st SATCON Battalion.

"I remember I was giving an organization and mission brief to the new commander of U.S. ARSPACE Forward - we added 'Forward' to the name back in 1994 - he interrupted me and said 'Weber, you got what looks like a battalion here - go make it one!'" Weber said.

"So we started the process and wrote a concept plan during a time when battalions were going away in the Army. Officially on May 1, 1995, most of the Military Satellite Control Directorate was converted to the 1st Satellite Control Battalion, U.S. ARSPACE Forward. The baby was finally born."

"While I was the lucky one chosen to be the first (commander of the battalion) there were so many more that had a greater impact on the rich history of the 53rd Signal Battalion than I could ever have hoped to have."

"I know that Soldiers past and present - some standing here today - enabled the battalion to successfully accomplish its vital mission. The battalion's success has always been the result of quality Soldiers, not the green or grey boxes that sit on the racks. As I look around the audience today I see many people who have left their own mark on the 53rd. I challenge you to go forward and carry this proud heritage into the future."

Afterward, tradition ensued and the youngest Soldier of the battalion Sgt. Nicolas A Cora along with the oldest, Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Czuba, joined Jones in the cutting of the birthday cake.