Small Island, Big Mission – Ascension Island Supports 45th Space Wing

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Ascension Island over 5,000 miles away from Patrick Air Force Base

Maj. Robert Bouffard, 45th Mission Support Group, Detachment 2 commander overlooks the base, January 11, 2019 at Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield. Air Force personnel at Ascension ensure mission success through airfield and launch operations and they also supported the December 23, 2018 launch of the Falcon 9 GPS III. (U.S. Air Force image by Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

ASCENSION ISLAND AUXILIARY AIRFIELD – Ascension Island is an important piece of real estate. And like real estate, one thing remains true, and that is: location, location, location.

More than 5,000 miles away from Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sits a 35 square-mile dormant volcano, and atop of that sits an Air Force base that is fueled by hard work and relationships.

The 45th Mission Support Group, Detachment 2, is home to Air Force personnel and a population of less than 800 people who support the 45th Space Wing and other organizations around the world through two primary missions.

“Our first mission is maintaining the airfield,” said Maj. Robert Bouffard, 45th MSG, Det 2 commander.

“We also have multiple sites supporting space missions, such as launch operations, tracking space debris and satellites.”

Ascension radar and telemetry sites look like big golf balls from a distance, but instead of rolling on the fairway, they provide vital radar and telemetry tracking functions for rocket launches.

On December 23, 2018, they provided tracking for the Falcon 9 GPS III launch. The sites also track every time the International Space Station passes overhead.

Tech. Sgt. Johntavion Jackson, 45th Civil Engineering Squadron contracting officer, looks over barge operating controls with an Ascension Island contractor, January 17, 2019 at Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield. When Ascension receives supplies by ship, they can use barges to deliver supplies to the island. (45th Space Wing image)

“Close to the equator in the Atlantic Ocean, we get a view of the sky that a lot of places don’t get,” said Bouffard.

“We can keep an eye on orbits that you can’t see in other parts of the world.”

When there is a launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that will be going into an orbit, Ascension tracks the rocket with their radar and telemetry systems making sure the rocket and payload operates correctly.

One of the ways they do this is at the Global Positioning System monitoring site at Ascension, one of only six Air Force monitoring sites in the world.

45th Mission Support Group, Detachment 2, and the Royal Air Force work together on Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield operations. (U.S. Air Force Image)

Ascension Island’s mission success in airfield and space operations is built on a strong foundation of interpersonal relationships.

When living on Ascension Island, it doesn’t take long to realize how important relationships are to everyone on base. Voices get raspy greeting everyone in the morning.

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Hands eventually get tired waving to everyone passed while driving. Common courtesy and politeness is king at Ascension and if it weren’t for the barren and otherworldly scenery, it could be mistaken for a small Midwestern farm town. A major reason why is because of how the local population treats everyone on base.

The Air Force isn’t the only organization on Ascension. The Royal Air Force is stationed on the island as well. Both the Air Force and the RAF work together on joint airfield operations.

“We work with the RAF on mission operations, and they provide numerous services when it comes to providing weather data and running of the airfield,” said Bouffard.

45th Mission Support Group, Detachment 2, holds an meeting, January 14, 2019 at Ascension Island Auxiliary Airfield. Det 2 works with various organizations including the Royal Air Force and Air Force Technical Applications Center. (U.S. Air Force image by Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

Periodically, Airmen go to RAF functions. One in particular, they celebrated Burns night, a night honoring the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns.

“We go to all of their functions and represent the U.S. Air Force,” said Tech Sgt. Johntavion Jackson, 45th Civil Engineering Squadron contracting officer. “We have a good relationship with them.”

“Since I stepped foot on the ground the locals have been nothing but respectful, helpful and willing to share their culture,” said Jackson.

Once the mission is accomplished, the relationships between Airmen, the RAF, locals, friends, and family are what will be remembered.

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