Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Canadian forces contribute to space mission

by Senior Airman Steve Bauer, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- When servicemembers here perform a mission, whether it is space surveillance or launching a payload into space, it is not solely an American effort, but rather a joint effort.

One such example is the partnership here between Americans and Canadians.

Stemming out of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint organization that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty and defense for the U.S. and Canada, Air Force Space Command was created in 1982 with a focus on space surveillance, missile warning, and command and control for national leadership.

Canadians have been a part of this organization from the beginning, and seven Canadians currently fill various positions at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This group is part of the OUTCAN Space Operations Unit. OUTCAN refers to Canadian military units stationed outside the Canadian borders.

"Our aim is to develop a professional Canadian forces space cadre that can contribute to both coalition and combined space operations," said Canadian air force Lt. Col. Steve Sarty, the OSO commander.

Approximately 35 OSO members are involved in joint space missions at various locations including Vandenberg AFB, Peterson AFB, Colo.; Buckley AFB, Colo.; Clear Air Force Station, Alaska; Thule Air Base, Greenland; Cape Cod AFS, Md.; Beale AFB, Calif.; and Cavalier AFS, N.D.

"Members of OSO units are involved in space surveillance, missile warning, day-to-day crew operations and anything that pertains to the space mission as a whole, whether it is tracking objects in space, launch support or space collision avoidance," said Canadian air force Maj. Cameron Lowdon. "Every Canadian that is connected with Vandenberg (AFB) is doing a space related job."

A small number of Canadians have been stationed at Vandenberg AFB since the late 1990s, teaching courses at the 533rd Training Squadron. In the past few years, the Canadian presence began to grow at Vandenberg AFB, and Canadians began filling more operational roles.

"Canadian forces personnel have worked hand-in-hand with U.S. personnel with NORAD since 1958," Colonel Sarty said. "Through the years as the joint command has evolved and the requirements have changed, Air Force Space Command has been an offshoot, and Canadian personnel have maintained a presence through all these years. In addition to having Canadian forces personnel at the various space warning squadrons throughout North America, we contribute through joint positions here in Vandenberg (AFB)."

Although they are a small group at Vandenberg AFB, the Canadians here are working side-by-side with Americans, solving the same problems and dealing with the same issues.

"We certainly gather something working in a joint environment, but we also feel that we bring something to the table that allows our American counterparts to perhaps see the other side of the coin in getting a challenge fixed," Major Lowdon said. "Not only are we learning, but we are adding to the solution at the end of the day. It is unique and challenging, but as a unit we are getting to where we want to be and we are certainly looking forward to the integrated success in this capacity."

One of OSOs recent in-house achievements is becoming an independent and self-sufficient unit as it recently stood up an orderly room for its geographically-dispersed unit's members. Now that OSO has solidified its place at Vandenberg AFB, the unit pursues another goal.

"With this developing Canadian space cadre, our goal is to establish the best way that our personnel, and Canada as a whole, can contribute to the space operations to achieve coalition and national objectives," Colonel Sarty said. "The eventual result would be full integration into Vandenberg (AFB's) Joint Space Operations Center."