NOPS... who are they and what are they doing here?
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SCHRIEVER AFB, Colo. – NOPS: They kick butt in softball every year, they’re competitive in other sports and volunteer both on and off base, but who are they and what are they doing here?
The National Reconnaissance Office Operations Squadron is one of the most involved squadrons on base when it comes to sports and community, but their mission has remained a mystery to most Schrieverites.
The National Reconnaissance Office designs, builds and operates the nation’s reconnaissance satellites. NRO products, provided to a list of customers including the CIA and Department of Defense, can warn of potential trouble spots around the world, help plan military operations and monitor the environment.
The NRO needs to talk to its satellites the same way the 50th Space Wing does. In order to ensure a smooth interface with the Air Force Satellite Control Network, NOPS was established here.
The day-to-day mission of NOPS is to provide S-band command and telemetry for NRO missions using the AFSCN, said Lt. Col. Michael Lakos, outgoing NOPS commander.
Another NOPS mission is to conduct launch and early orbit operations for NRO satellites. The Directorate of Operations staff includes five flight commanders, 28 operations controllers, five schedulers and five system administrators.
“NOPS helps ensure the success of satellite launches by collecting booster and upper stage telemetry information from liftoff through the separation of the payload. That enables them to make the first satellite contact, start the systems and check out the ‘bird’ to make sure it is healthy,” Colonel Lakos said.
In addition to mission-oriented activities, the squadron has a high participation rate in intramural sports. “For the size of their squadron, they put together good teams,” said Seth Cannello, fitness center director. “They are especially good at softball. They won the championship last year and have had good teams the last three or four years.”
The people of the NOPS give their time to make the base and the community a better place as well. The NOPS has adopted a stretch of highway near Schriever that they help keep clean. They are also coordinators for base volunteers at the Marian House Soup Kitchen in Colorado Springs.
The largest off-base event the squadron took part in last year was a race at the Pikes Peak International Raceway. Through a partnership with the PPIR Director of Security, NOPS put together security augmentation details for three of the four major PPIR race events last year. NOPS has already worked the first two races of this year’s PPIR event schedule, Colonel Lakos said. They will be involved in a greater capacity later this month when the NASCAR Busch Series returns to PPIR and next month when the Indy Racing League makes its annual visit to PPIR.
As part of the 15-member intelligence community, the NRO plays a primary role in achieving information superiority for the U.S. government and armed forces. For more information, visit their Web site, http://www.nro.gov/.