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From 'Master of the Sky' to Master of Space: 50th TFW gains new life, new mission in ultimate high ground

Posted 6/26/2007   Updated 6/27/2007 Email story   Print story


by Randy Saunders
50th Space Wing Historian

6/26/2007 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Editor's note: As the Air Force prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2007, a look back at the 50th Space Wing's journey is appropriate. Throughout the following months, the Satellite Flyer Online will publish articles describing the wing's distinguished past. This is the ninth article in the series.

Air Force officials soon reversed their decision to inactivate the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing. Air Force Space Command activated the 50th TFW as the 50th Space Wing Jan. 30, 1992, at Falcon Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs. At the same time, the command activated the 50th Operations Group, the redesignated World War II and early Cold War-era 50th Fighter Group, and assigned it to the 50th Space Wing. 

AFSPC also activated the 50th Maintenance and Supply Group and the 50th Combat Support Group under new names, creating a wing organization that closely resembled that of the 1950s. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill McPeak implemented this return to the wing-group-squadron structure throughout the Air Force to clarify command relationships and realign administrative duties to the proper organizational level. 

Squadrons assigned to the wing concurrent with its activation included a mixture of past units and those previously assigned to the 2nd SW, which the 50th SW replaced. The command activated the 50th Mission Support, Civil Engineering, Security Police, Communications, Airdrome, Air Service, Depot Repair and Depot Supply Squadrons with new designations. Transferred from the 2nd Space Wing were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Satellite Control Squadrons, renamed Space Operations Squadrons. The headquarters of the 2nd Satellite Tracking Group became Headquarters 750th Space Group and transferred to 50th SW. The 50th SW also assumed responsibility for a number of detachments operating around the world. 

Within months of its activation, the wing completed its reorganization under the objective wing structure. The primary operational and support groups had been identified, activated, and assigned commanders. Still, many functions and squadrons, especially in the support areas, relied on Peterson AFB organizations. 

As the wing matured over the first year of activity, its commanders determined that the units at Falcon AFB could be served better by wing-owned agencies. The 50th SW soon gained its own Military Personnel Flight and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Office, decreasing its reliance on the 21st SW at Peterson AFB. 

The expansion of AFSPC's mission and organizational standardization led to the activation of 14th Air Force at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., July 1, 1993. The command's space launch, surveillance, warning and control wings were reassigned to 14th Air Force following its activation. 

No longer did the wing's crews strap into ejector seats, hit the afterburners and launch into the wild blue yonder. The 50th SW crews flew satellites in the deep black of space, again assuming a leading role in the application of advancing technology. The leap into space was a natural evolution for the unit that had been at the forefront in fielding and operating technologically advanced fighters in United States Air Forces in Europe. 

The 50th SW assumed command-and-control responsibilities for several existing satellite constellations that provided a variety of critical information to the Air Force, Department of Defense and other users. Additionally, the 50th SW assumed responsibility for the Air Force Satellite Control Network, which allowed satellite controllers to fly satellites under their command. 

Crews from the 50th Operations Group and 750th Space Group's satellite operations squadrons, clad in Air Force blue flight suits, monitored satellites during launch operations, maneuvered the satellites to their proper orbits, operated the craft while in orbit and fixed those satellite anomalies repairable from ground control stations as they occurred. 

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