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Airman survives attack; Busy period upon us

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Sharks, I wanted to take some time this week to recognize the individual sacrifices of our Airmen down range, the robustness of our operations schedule in the near future and the excellence of one of our squadrons. It's this combination of individual sacrifice, operational excellence and team cohesion that makes us what we are - the best in Space Command!

Our most important asset is our people and we recently were reminded of the dangers facing our deployed members when Senior Airman Diane Lopes of the 920th Rescue Wing was injured during an enemy mortar at-tack at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, Sept. 21. Although she sustained injuries to her right arm and left leg, she's recovering well at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In fact, she is doing so well that she graciously received a Purple Heart last week and said she is eager to get back on duty.

That kind of fortitude makes me proud to serve with Airman Lopes and others like her here at Patrick. On behalf of the 45th Space Wing Sharks, I would like to let Airman Lopes know that our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family, as well as with the other brave Airmen currently deployed and their families back here at home. They are all heroes in my book.

Speaking of heroes, those here on the home front are in the midst of an extremely challenging period. If the current Eastern Range schedule holds, we are set to launch four major missions between Oct. 9 and Nov. 2 - a span of only 24 days!

Our space operators just finished successful mating operations for the Wideband Global Satcom and Defense Support Program spacecraft to their Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy vehicles respectively. The Global Positioning System satellite II-R 17 is being processed and should be taken to the pad for mating with its Delta II booster in the near future.

In terms of the launch schedule, first up on Oct. 9 is the Atlas V carrying the inaugural WGS satellite into space. In addition to being the first launch of this new capability, this mission will also be only the second Atlas V vehicle to carry a military payload into space.

After that, we are planning to loft the GPS satellite on Oct. 17. This satellite will join the constellation that continues to perform as the world's foremost space-based positioning, navigation and timing.

Next is STS-120, which will deliver the Harmony module to the International Space Station. This is a milestone mission because it is the first connecting module to increase the orbiting laboratory's interior space.

And finally, the biggest EELV in our inventory - the Delta IV "Heavy" - is on tap to carry the last DSP satellite into orbit later this fall. This will be the first operational payload to fly on a Delta IV "Heavy."

Expanding our operational excellence to the highest levels in the Air Force, a team from our 45th Launch Support Squadron competed for the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award in Washington, D.C. last week. The 45th LCSS has established itself as a spacecraft center of excellence in the short period since its inception and continues the tradition of the Sharks' dominance in space lift operations.

On a closing note, many of you are working through this three-day weekend, ensuring things are in place for a safe and successful Atlas V launch next week. I greatly appreciate your dedication to mission and for your efforts toward providing this sophisticated capability for our warfighters. Go Sharks!