Local News

Jul 30, 2010 9:17 PM by Ariel Wesler

21st Squadron transfers to Vandenberg

The closure of an air force station in the bay area has brought some of its staff to a new facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

25 positions have been transferred from that unit to a brand new Satellite Operations Facility at Vandenberg. The air force base held a dedication ceremony this morning. The building is named for Ellison Onizuka, an air force astronaut killed when the Challenger exploded in 1986.

The ribbon was cut and the building dedicated to this man--Ellison Onizuka, an air force astronaut killed in 1986 when the Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff.

He was a man as I like to say reached for the stars. . . and I know that every man and woman that's going to work in this facility is going to be someone just like that," said Lt. Gen. Larry James, Commander, 14th Air Force.

25 of those men and woman are new to the Central Coast. they were transferred here from the Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, which closed earlier this week.

"I feel very bad about missing my family, but short of that, I feel very good about what I'm doing," said Vincent Gatt, who recently transferred from Sunnyvale.

Vandenberg says at a time when outer space is becoming more congested and contested with hundreds of satellites, the 21st Space Pperations Squadron is crucial.

"You look across all the launch pads. Every pad has a rocket on it right now. That hasn't happened in 10 or 20 years," Lt. Gen. James said.

There are two called ray domes. They lie just outside the new 40,000 square foot facility. Inside them are satellite dishes, responsible for sending and receiving data from satellites in orbit.

Information that powers some of the technology we use everyday.

"Everything from precision navigation and timing, what we see from GPS systems that we have in our cars and in our cell phones right now, communications, weather," said Lt. Col. Robert Pavelko, Commander, 21st Space Operations Squadron.

Down these new classified hallways, the exploration continues and so does Onizuka's legacy.

"I am tremendously impressed and I sincerely salute all of you for the work that is done here," said his wife Lorna Onizuka.

"Your memory lives on dear heart."

A federal military committee closed down the air force unit in Sunnyvale as part of a nationwide effort to to consolidate bases and save millions of dollars.

The Vandenberg facility is expected to be fully operational starting this fall.

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