Service before self: not casual words for SBIRS operators

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo -- Sir Henry Taylor once said "the world knows nothing of its greatest men." After the events of recent days I have come to realize the greater truth in that statement. Upon my return home Dec. 29 from my winter retreat here, I was greeted by an enormous amount of e-mail from friends and family. My inbox primarily consisted of holiday well wishes coupled with a few questions regarding whether I enjoyed the storm which many of my friends assumed resulted in my having time off from work. These inquires forced me to ponder the last several days and the difference between the duties of our servicemen and women compared to that of other types of employment.

December marked the anniversary of my first year as a member of our Air Force family. For the previous ten years I worked in the civilian sector away from the military. My former world was governed by rules considerably different, and at times much more relaxed, than the reality in which I live today. For example, a storm similar to what we just experienced would have qualified for a free vacation of television time on the sofa. Considering this, it is understandable why many of my friends were shocked when I politely informed them that my place of work substituted as a temporary home throughout our little blizzard.

Driving to the base Dec.27 started out like any other work day. However, by mid-morning it became necessary to plan for the worst as inclement weather appeared to be setting in. By late afternoon preparations were already in place for two crews to remain in place the next three days. Mid-shift crewmen were already in the Mission Control Site in crew rest. That evening I ventured outside to observe the snowfall and was unable to even see the nearest building.

For the next three days members of 2nd Space Warning Squadron, 8th Space Warning Squadron, 460th Operations Support Squadron and 460th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation, both American and ally, worked extended crew shifts waiting out the worst of the winter storm. In addition, security forces, contractors and engineers remained on site doing their duty in order that crew members could carry out their mission uninterrupted. Maj. James Mindoro, 8th SWS director of operations and crew commander for the storm remarked that "the unity of effort and total force of active duty, Reserve and Guard members coupled with both contractors and essential base personnel represented the finest qualities of the Air Force and serve as an example for all to follow."

When not at work, members found rest where they could in the training suite, the presentation room and the lounge just to name a few of the sleeping locations. Meals Ready to Eat and the remaining items in the snack cabinet served as the cuisine d'jour during our lock down. Throughout this time, the crews diligently went about their duty processing important events while maintaining an ever evolving complex and expensive system thus guaranteeing vital information for both our national leaders and the warfighters located across the globe.

It's also important to know that throughout the storm some crewmembers managed to beat the odds in order to make it in - some from places as far away as Colorado Springs. Those crewmembers deserve special praise for facing the dangers of travel in order to help relieve those already trapped who faced long hours.

As the sun rose on Dec. 29 the last vestiges of the storm were fast melting from the roads and replacement crews were on their way in. By noon, the last members of the Winter Storm 2006 crew were safely on their way home. With the exception of those crew members, it is highly unlikely that history will remember the stories of Buckley personnel during the Denver storm of this year. However, this experience has reinforced for many not only the importance of our military, but has also highlighted a few of the sacrifices required by people who wear the uniform. While the news media often portrays others as cultural heroes, it's important to note the "unsung' heroes who work around-the-clock to sustain the real culture: freedom.