Space support enhances division's planning efforts.
In July 2004, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) transitioned a Space Support Element (SSE) to the I 0th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. The SSE is made up of three space operations officers and one NCO. They are trained in exploiting space-based capabilities to improve battlefield awareness for the warfighter.
"In the past, I kind of bumped around because 1 did not know where to get this expertise," said Colonel Michael Coss, 10th Mountain Division plans and operations officer. "When the space operations officers first showed up, I had no idea what they would do. Since they've been assigned, we have had four command post exercises and in every case, they have provided me with the kinds of operational capabilities on the battlefield that the UEx Headquarters is charged to do. There is no turning back. We are dependent on technology. It is a tremendous enhancement, but you have to have experts that can keep it up and create workarounds when something is not functional. Our space experts provide us that."
The 10th Mountain SSE includes Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Brozek, Major Joseph Bolton and Major Brian Soldon, all SMDC-trained space operations officers and Staff Sergeant Lee Rawlins, a satellite maintainer/operator. This is the second of three teams SMDC has transitioned into the new units of employment (UEx). The 3rd Infantry Division received the first team in June 2004. That team is now with 3rd 1D to Iraq. Plans are to assign SSEs to all the divisions by 2007.
"I was originally assigned to SMDC's G-3 (Plans and Operations) in July 2002, straight out of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas," said Brozek, who had flown attack helicopters for 14 years before being selected to become a space operations officer. He attended the FA40 Space Operations Officer Qualification Course in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"It was like starting from ground zero in a new environment. There was no support, no plan for setting up a new section as part of the UEx," Brozek said. "As we worked through the logistics issues of setting up a new section, I was explaining what the SSE would add to the division.
"We're all watching the 3rd ID SSE to see how they set up," Brozek said. "We will be providing the same support within the theater. It won't be a mirror operation, but it will be the same type of support."
The SSE officers use their expertise to plan, integrate, and coordinate space mission areas into all aspects of the UEx. The team is involved in anything that goes to, through or from space, such as blue force tracking, satellite imagery, and global positioning systems--position, velocity and navigation of the GPS, Brozek said.
Having an embedded SSE helps the unit understand space, and they communicate what space can do across domains such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, geospatial information and services products, and blue force tracking.
"We talk in terms of two capabilities: space support to lethality and space support to force protection," said Lieutenant Colonel Rick Dow, SMDC's command lead for SSE fielding. "Space support to lethality comes from commercial space sources or other sources of targetable information such as ONIR (overhead on-imaging Infrared). Knowing where the targets are and how to get them enhances lethality. Space support for force protection means providing space-based blue-force tracking for situational awareness and understanding."
"Understand that the SSE relies heavily on reach-back to SMDC because that is where the expertise is," Brozek said. "We have a SATURN system for communication so that we can talk to the experts to get the answers we need." SATURN (Space Application Technology User Reachback Node) provides unprecedented global wideband commercial satellite communications to the warfighter.
"I think it is incredibly important for the SSEs to be assigned to the divisions. All the branches of the military--particularly the Army--depend very heavily on space for dependency on satellite communications systems; imagers both national technical means, government and commercial; and GPS systems," Brozek said. "The amount of receivers is growing so fast it is incredible. The need for bandwidth is growing at a tremendous rate. We need someone at the division who has the knowledge of how it works and knows who to go to to get help. The amount of assets being pushed to the division is growing because space is now down to the muddy boot level--to the Soldiers. Without someone to translate that expertise, the Soldiers would not be able to get the information."
Coss said the key is having the SSE as an in-house conduit to all the space-based capabilities available.
"There is a series of space-based products and services that previously I did not know where to get," Coss said. "I had no conduit; now I do. I used to go to my terrain guys to see if I could get an image or go to someone else about a satellite communication link that wasn't working. There are so many things linked to space now, such as GPS and other devices. Having trained space operations officers assigned to the division gives me a staff expert in leveraging space-based products, platforms and services.
"This area has become so important to the way we fight," Coss said. "We have taken risks with some of our systems by reducing capabilities because we thought we could use joint capabilities to fill the gap. The bridge between the services is sustained by space-based products."
SMDC started having space operations officers in 1998 when the Army started creating functional areas. The first formal FA40 Space Operations Officer Qualification Course was in 2001. To date 128 space operations officers have graduated from the course. The next class is scheduled to begin in June. Each SSE receives an additional three-week refresher course before being assigned to a division.
"Because this was such a new mission and concept for us, it was good for them to get the refresher training and get updated on the equipment. It changes frequently," said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Powers, chief of SMDC's Space Proponency Office.
"The biggest reason they were put into the divisions was to provide that continuous planning capability," Powers said. "Before we started fielding the SSEs to the divisions, we would send in an Army Space Support Team just in time before deployment. The SSE provides continuous integration so that the SSE is part of the team."
(Debra Valine is a member of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command's Public Affairs Office.)