By Capt. Mark T. Anderson
Commander, Co. A, 53rd Signal Bn.
Alpha Company at Fort Detrick began its existence as the first Satellite Operation Center in 1982. Since then, the Archangels (Alpha) have led the 53rd Signal Battalion (Satellite Control) in several technological advancements to better serve the United States Military in the ever-increasing need for satellite communications.
With the launch of the Wideband Global Satellite 5, Alpha Company is now preparing to make the next move in advancing satellite communications to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines around the world.
WGS is the latest military communication satellite, with the first launching in 2007.The WGS constellation continues to mature and Alpha Company will be taking on the newest mission. Although this is not the first WGS in orbit, it will be a first for the 59 Soldiers, one Department of Army Civilian and 11 contractors who make up the Archangels.
“We continually endeavor to provide seamless communications to our users, and Alpha has created a yearlong training plan to ensure mission accomplishment with WGS,” said Capt. Mark Anderson, company commander.
“The Archangels have worked with a legacy satellite constellation known as the Defense Satellite Communication System for more than 30 years, and the move to WGS requires training on new equipment and most importantly - experience. Alpha Company has drawn from multiple resources to ensure our satellite controllers are prepared for this mission.
”“We have the benefit of five geographically dispersed sister companies and other agencies to support our train-up. Our Sister Companies around the world are able to share a wealth of knowledge about this new system, but we are fortunate to have one of our sister companies, Bravo Company, located an hour down the road at Fort Meade, Md.”
According to Anderson their location allows Alpha Company to conduct new mission training by bringing WGS experienced Soldiers here, as well as sending Soldiers to the Bravo location. In addition to this new mission training, he said, the ability to learn from subject matter experts on new equipment and positions has proved invaluable.
“All of our satellite control equipment training is conducted on site, and takes up to six months for Soldiers to achieve their initial certification. This type of mission has no room for error, so training is a constant at Alpha Company.”
In addition to new mission training, Alpha Company has been able to work with multiple organizations to change their site configuration to utilize a WGS.“This has created the ability for our satellite controllers to experience a ‘crawl, walk, run’ training plan. This is the first time this site re-configuration has ever been attempted, and has proven to be a success. The ability to look at a different WGS before taking on our new mission has created a real world WGS operating environment at the Alpha Company site.”
This opportunity allows the company to test and validate new standard operating procedures, as well as give the satellite controllers real world experience, while having another operations center sit in the “back-up” seat to coach Alpha Company along.
The 53rd Signal Battalion’s goal of providing the best customer support possible does not stop, no matter what systems they use. “Alpha Company’s new WGS mission is no exception making our long range planning and execution so important,” Anderson said.
“This train-up utilizing organizations and agencies around the world will ultimately ensure the Warfighter has all the satellite resources needed to fulfill their mission for years to come.”