HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Without satellites in space, military forces on the ground cannot shoot, move or communicate. That is the mantra that the Army’s 1st Space Brigade tries to instill with troops around the world.
“We go in and we help educate,” said the brigade’s commander Col. Donald Brooks.
Headquartered at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, the Army’s 1st Space Brigade is part of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. It was created in 2005 in response to the military’s growing use of satellites and ground stations for combat operations. Many of its nearly 2,000 soldiers are deployed in 11 countries.
During deployments, members of the brigade monitor the health of satellites in orbit. They also help commanders analyze the data from missile missile satellites and other space-based intelligence like imagery.
Brooks, who took command of the brigade in March, said people often are surprised he’s an Army officer and assume he’s in the Space Force.
“I get asked every day if I’m a guardian,” he told SpaceNews on the sidelines of the Space and Missile Defense Symposium.
There is quite a bit of confusion about the military space organizations and what each of them does, Brooks said. He has noticed that many people don’t know the difference between Space Force (a military branch) and Space Command (a combatant command).
“We’re educating still, and that’s fine,” said Brooks.
“Space helps warfighting organizations be more effective and efficient in their ability to shoot, move and communicate,” Brooks said. That is part of what space brigade units teach when they work with other units across the U.S. military.
Forces in the field often are not aware of how dependent they are on satellites for every aspect of their operations, and they are surprised to learn that enemies will intentionally jam or disrupt satellite signals, he said. Without Global Positioning System, artillery guns can’t shoot their precision guided munitions, and maneuvering formations can’t figure out their location.
“We help them mitigate how to fight through denied environments,” Brooks said. “We let them know that, for example, if you’re a maneuver force and you’re receiving jamming, you go stand behind a vehicle, go dig a hole and put your receiver down in the hole, because that jammer has to have line of sight to the target.”
“If you can break that line of sight, you can reacquire GPS and you can reacquire your navigation,” he said.
Brooks said the 1st Space Brigade is staying in the Army although other Army units that operate communications satellites are being transferred to the Space Force.
The units moving to the Space Force are part of the Army’s Satellite Operations Brigade, which is also part of Army Space and Missile Defense Command. The satellite operations brigade controls the payloads of the Wideband Global Satcom and other military communication satellites.
Brooks said the 1st Space Brigade is not being realigned because of its unique role. “One of the neat things about this brigade is we’re not only focused on the Army. We really support Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and also the coalition and our partner nations.”
This month the 1st Space Brigade will begin training Marines on how the Army uses space-based capabilities to support warfighters.
Marines from the newly activated Marine Corps Forces Space Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, will train at the Space and Missile Defense School in Colorado Springs. Training will include, situational awareness of space capabilities, space assets, space products, and the impact of space on operations.