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By A1C Andrew Bertain, Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
/ Published August 05, 2020
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 16th Space Control Squadron, perform routine maintenance operations on satellite dishes at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, July 30, 2020. Operation Silent Sentry protects critical satellite communication links by employing multiple weapons systems for space electronic warfare. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Battles)
As space and cyberspace become more competitive and crowded, the amount of signals transferred through satellites grows every day. Each signal takes up space in the electromagnetic spectrum. For 5,500 consecutive days, Operation Silent Sentry has been run by Total Force Airmen from the 16th Space Control Squadron and the 380th Space Control Squadron whose mission is to detect these signals, and monitor interferences in their area of responsibility.
“We are essentially the unblinking eye for the AOR,” said Lt. Col. Angelo Fernandez, 16th SPCS commander.
Over the past 15 years, the 16th SPCS has continuously deployed its operators on rotation to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar to maintain its vital mission of spectrum over-watch.
Silent Sentry supports satellite communications, multiple Combatant Commands and helps more than just the United States Air Force and Space Force across the Central Command’s AOR.
“Primarily, we support the remotely piloted aircraft community during their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or kinetic strike endeavors,” said 2nd Lt. Devon Wagstaff, 16th SPCS crew commander. “Additionally, we have branched into providing Spectrum Over-watch to in-theater naval assets and vital command and control junction nodes for ground forces.”
Wagstaff explains that over time Silent Sentry has had to expand its capabilities but its initial goal has remained steadfast.
“Although our mission has changed a number of times over the years, there has been a consistent need for electronic support and we have always postured ourselves to help meet the needs of the COCOMS,” said Wagstaff.
Even though Silent Sentry operations have endured for over 15 years, its operators don’t see the need ending anytime soon.
“I do not expect our operations to come to a close after we’ve been going for this long,” said Airman 1st Class Kenneth Demers, 16th SPCS space control operator. “I expect demand for our type of electronic support to only increase as time goes on.”
“In the last 13 months I’ve been in command, our team expanded from supporting mostly Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft missions to include other Joint Force mission partners in the Army and Navy. In the near future, we will continue expanding our support to our coalition partners”, explained Lt Col Fernandez. “We will stay laser focused on evolving how we enable joint and coalition forces lethality. Innovation is in our DNA.”