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Schriever AFB Celebrates 30 Years as Top-secret Satellite Operator

By 2005, there were 69 buildings on Schriever Air Force Base, which occupied more than 4,100 acres. The base was renamed in honor of Gen. Bernard Schriever in 1998 and was the first base to be named for a living individual. (Air Force/Courtesy Photo)
By 2005, there were 69 buildings on Schriever Air Force Base, which occupied more than 4,100 acres. The base was renamed in honor of Gen. Bernard Schriever in 1998 and was the first base to be named for a living individual. (Air Force/Courtesy Photo)

One of the Air Force's youngest bases is marking a milestone anniversary this week with fun and games.

But don't let the dodgeball fool you, 30-year-old Schriever Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs isn't casting the weight of the world off its shoulders anytime soon. Airmen there are interspersing the sports with day-to-day operations of 175 military satellites, including the Global Positioning System.

"We have to get out and breathe a little bit and make sure we're still human," said Master Sgt. Andrew Miguelgorry, a 50th Space Wing airmen who helped plan the week's activities.

Officially opened as Falcon Air Force Base on Sept. 26, 1985, the base later named Schriever was picked for satellite work because of its remote location on the plains east of Colorado Springs and its proximity to other space facilities at Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

It has grown into what is arguably the world's most important Air Force base thanks largely to GPS, which has become crucial in the civilian world where its timing signal is used for in-car navigation, banking transactions and to control data flowing across the Internet.

"It is more than just a military system, I would call it a humanity system," base historian Randy Saunders said of GPS.

The base also controls the military's most crucial communications satellites and downloads the world's weather from a constellation of satellites that monitors the environment.

Schriever also hosts soldiers who could save the country from catastrophe.

The National Guard's 100th Missile Defense Brigade stands ready to shoot down incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles with a fleet of interceptors fired from silos in Alaska and California. The brigade works in Schriever's Missile Defense Integration and Operations Center.

Most of Schriever's 7,700 military and civilian workers toil behind tall prisonlike double fences at an installation that is as secretive as it is secure.

Local wags long ago dubbed the place "Area 52" and some call it "where the Air Force goes when it wants to be alone."

Recently announced additions to Schriever will only enhance that top-secret reputation.

The Air Force confirmed this month that the base will soon house the joint interagency combined space operations center, which brings Air Force satellite experts together with their counterparts at federal intelligence organizations such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

Saunders said that could be the first part of a wave of growth as the Air Force reliance on its satellites grows.

"I think Schriever has an important role to play," he said.

Miguelgorry said the fun planned this week plays an important role in keeping Schriever airmen poised to meet the huge needs of today and the higher expectations of tomorrow.

"Making sure we all work together and trust each other is an important thing," he said.

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Air Force Military Bases