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Sgt. Blackman manages satellites with historic squadron


U.S. Space Force Sgt. Dillon Blackman, formally a 16th Electromagnetic Warfare Squadron technician assigned to Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, transferred into the newly activated 53rd Space Operations Squadron on July 6, 2022.


Blackman, assigned to Detachment Alpha at Fort Detrick, Maryland, is among the first group of Guardians to join the new USSF squadron.


“I got selected to be part of the first class with Guardians at Fort Gordon, Georgia, for the Army [Satellite System/Network Coordinator] class,” Blackman said. “This class is where the Army folks earn their space wings. It's similar to when we go through U.S. Air Force technical schools, and we earn our wings at graduation.”


Blackman’s new unit has a long, proud history of service tracing back to World War II as the oldest operational battalion in the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade. The previously U.S. Army-owned 53rd Signal Battalion belonged to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

The 53 SOPS, headquartered at Schriever SFB, is now assigned to Space Delta 8 – Satellite Communications and Navigational Warfare and aligned under the Space Operations Command, headquartered at Peterson SFB.


The 53 SOPS is responsible for payload and transmission control for certain crucial military communications satellites and satellite constellations.


“I’ll be doing 12-hour shifts supporting satellite state of health, telemetry and transmission control,” Blackman said. “We keep positive control over the satellite, which means 24/7 positive control of each terminal, accessing the satellite and making sure that the settings that they're transmitting with are correct and accurate.”


Space has always been a part of Blackman’s life. Growing up in Ormond Beach, Florida, he and his family were around 70 miles north of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, formerly known as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He recalls watching Space Transportation System Shuttle launches on TV, then rushing outdoors to glimpse it with his own eyes.


“On a clear day, you could see it just starting to peek up over the trees,” said Blackman. “Night was even more spectacular because you would see the brightness of the flames from the rocket engines going off; it would light up the whole sky.”


At first, Blackman wanted to be an astronaut, but like many, he lost interest after learning about the STS Shuttle Challenger disaster. He earned his high school diploma in 2014 and worked in the automotive sector, but that career path did not appeal to him. In 2017, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after having an impactful experience at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, while visiting friends.


“They were doing the touch-and-goes with this aircraft — I believe it was a C-17 Globemaster III — where they would just barely touch the ground with the ramp down for a couple of seconds before taking off,” said Blackman. “I saw that, and then just being on the base, and seeing the life and culture, something was calling me to serve.”


Blackman served in the USAF’s Space System Operations before transferring into the USSF on September 1, 2020. The USSF offered him the opportunity to expand his career and further explore his interests in space.


“After I transitioned over, I had a lot of cool opportunities working in the joint environment, and being able to use some of the skills I learned before the military — being able to apply it to better integrating the newly stood up U.S. Space Force with our other branches and mission partners,” said Blackman.


A mission-transfer ceremony took place Aug. 15, 2022, officially signifying the redesignation of the U.S. Army Satellite Communication mission to the USSF with the 53rd SOPS.


For more information about the 53 SOPS, please check out the link below.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui