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OUTCAN contributions vital to space mission

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Canadian Air Force Sergeant David Panth teaches a class at the 533rd Training Squadron here. Canadians have been a part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command from its beginnings and its evolution through the years have brought the current group of seven Canadians, who fill various positions, to Vandenberg. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Canadian Air Force Sergeant David Panth teaches a class at the 533rd Training Squadron here. Canadians have been a part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command from its beginnings and its evolution through the years have brought the current group of seven Canadians, who fill various positions, to Vandenberg. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When the men and women of Vandenberg perform a mission, whether it is space surveillance or launching a payload into space, it is not solely an American effort, but rather a joint effort.

One such example is the partnership between the Americans and Canadians at Vandenberg.

Stemming out of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint organization that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty and defense for the U.S. and Canada, Air Force Space Command was created in 1982 with a focus on space surveillance, missile warning and command and control for national leadership. Canadians have been a part of this organization from the beginning and its evolution through the years have brought the current group of seven Canadians, who fill various positions, to Vandenberg. This group is part of the OUTCAN* Space Operations Unit, or OSO.

"Our aim is to develop a professional Canadian Forces space cadre that can contribute to both coalition and combined space operations," said Canadian Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Sarty, OSO commander.

Approximately 35 OSO personnel are involved in joint space missions at various locations including Vandenberg AFB, Peterson AFB, Colo., Buckley AFB, Colo., Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, Thule Air Base, Greenland, Cape Cod AFS, Md., Beale AFB, Calif., and Cavalier AFS, N.D.

"Members of OSO units are involved in space surveillance, missile warning, day-to-day crew operations and anything that pertains to the space mission as a whole, whether it is tracking objects in space, launch support or space collision avoidance," said Canadian Air Force Maj. Cameron Lowdon. "Every Canadian that is connected with Vandenberg is doing a space related job."

A small number of Canadians have been stationed at Vandenberg since the late 1990s, teaching courses at the 533rd Training Squadron. In the last few years, the Canadian presence began to grow at Vandenberg and Canadian personnel began filling more operational roles.

"Canadian Forces personnel have worked hand-in-hand with U.S. personnel with NORAD since 1958," Colonel Sarty said. "Through the years as the Joint Command has evolved and the requirements have changed, Air Force Space Command has been an offshoot and Canadian personnel have maintained a presence through all these years. In addition to having Canadian Forces personnel at the various space warning squadrons throughout North America, we contribute through Joint positions here in Vandenberg."

Although a small group at Vandenberg, the Canadians are here working side-by-side the Americans solving the same problems and dealing with the same issues.

"We certainly gather something working in a joint environment, but we also feel that we bring something to the table that allows our American counterparts to perhaps see the other side of the coin in getting a challenge fixed," Major Lowdon said. "Not only are we learning, but we are adding to the solution at the end of the day. It is unique and challenging, but as a unit we are getting to where we want to be and we are certainly looking forward to the integrated success in this capacity."

One of OSOs recent in-house achievements is becoming an independent and self-sufficient unit as it recently stood up an orderly room for it's geographically-dispersed unit's members. Now that OSO has solidified its place at Vandenberg, the unit pursues another goal.

"With this developing Canadian space cadre, our goal is to establish the best way that our personnel, and Canada as a whole, can contribute to the space operations to achieve coalition and national objectives," Colonel Sarty said. "The eventual result would be full integration into Vandenberg's Joint Space Operations Center."

The Canadian Forces at Vandenberg are a vital asset that contributes to the overall mission of the base. The same U.S. military customs and courtesies are to be rendered to Canadian Forces personnel based on the individuals rank.

During their off-duty time, the Canadians have fully integrated themselves into the local communities.

"The people in the local community are extremely friendly, we have had nothing but great encounters with the local folks, military and civilian," said Canadian Master Warrant Officer Jamie Marshall.

"One of the things that we really try and stress on our folks when we send them outside the country is that they are representing Canada as well, so they must act professionally and courteously to their hosts," Major Lowdon said. "We try to make an effort to go out and promote the fact that we are down here, promote what we are doing and promote how we are working hand-in-hand with the Americans to achieve the same goals. We always have to keep in the back of our minds that we are representing the entire country - there are 33 million Canadians that we are representing and there are only seven of us here at Vandenberg."


*OUTCAN is in reference to Canadian military units stationed outside the Canadian borders.