The Army's Space and Missile Defense Command held a gathering for community leaders in Colorado Springs to show off one of the region's lesser-known military units.
The soldiers work at Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and in a pair of nondescript office buildings off Powers Boulevard. They quietly do big jobs, including defending the nation from incoming nuclear warheads and helping the Army communicate across the globe.
But few know about the Army's growing space corps, said Lt. Gen. David Mann, who leads the command.
"We have a lot of senior leaders even within the Army who don't know," Mann told 20 business leaders with Colorado 30 Group, a military booster organization.
There are reasons the Army command is so little-known. First, it's small, with fewer soldiers in the command than are in most Army combat brigades, including the three at Fort Carson. It's also secretive, seldom telling the public what's going on at Building No. 3 at Peterson Air Force base or its other headquarters at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
But Mann said the command is playing a larger and more public role in how the Army fights.
The command controls the military's Defense Satellite Communication System, which provides commanders with channels to the Pentagon and Army units everywhere. It also runs the military's force tracking system, which shows the exact location of vehicles and individual soldiers in battle. Soldiers in Colorado Springs with the command's 100th Missile Defense Brigade control interceptor missiles in Alaska and California silos that are designed to take out enemy warheads in space.
Mann also outlined new initiatives for the command, which is experimenting with tiny satellites and truck-mounted anti-missile lasers.
"The command has responsibility not only for future operations but also future warfare development," he said.
The miniature satellites would help commanders with communications and surveillance over remote battlefields and also could help keep forces connected if a future war includes taking out larger satellites.
The laser, now in testing, could shield soldiers from incoming rockets, missiles and smaller rounds including mortar fire.
"It will address a wide variety of threats," Mann said of the laser. "That's an area that's getting a lot of interest."
The command's soldiers are on every American battlefield. The Colorado Springs-based 1st Space Brigade provides missile warning at sites around the globe and sends teams overseas to help U.S. commanders deal with communications problems and issues with Global Positioning System signals.
The command also is helping the Army train for a future where warfare includes attacks in space. Training teams have developed a program to show units how to continue to fight if satellite signs are jammed or satellites are destroyed.
"We have an impact at the foxhole level for our soldiers," Mann said.