Team Schriever celebrates GPS heritage

February 23, 2016  - By
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News from 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

In honor of the space program that benefits more than 3 billion users worldwide, the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons celebrated the second annual GPS Heritage Gala Friday, Feb. 19, at the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The two squadrons perform the satellite command and control mission for the GPS constellation. The gala celebrated GPS’s achievements as well as honored the people, both past and present, who enable the program’s success.

Source: GPS World Staff

Attendees give a standing ovation to Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. after he shared his story during the GPS Heritage Gala Del Toro was the guest speaker. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Lt. Col. Todd Benson, 2 SOPS commander, opened the ceremony and said, “What an incredible evening. I think this is well deserved…This is a great opportunity to come together and I am truly humbled to be in a company of our guests tonight.”

Benson also acknowledged the GPS milestones since last year’s gala, including the four spacecraft added to its now 41-satellite constellation.

“My hat’s off to all of you who played a role in that,” he said.

With the theme, “Setting the Gold Standard,” the event featured Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. as the keynote speaker. Del Toro is a Tactical Air Control Party specialist responsible for calling in airstrikes while on the frontline. He received severe burns when an improvised explosive device exploded near him while he was on a patrol in Afghanistan in 2005.

He said GPS has come a long way. “People think it is just a navigation service, but they don’t realize the military aspect and how it impacts us.”

Del Toro said, “I wouldn’t be here without GPS. A lot of my teammates would probably not be here without GPS. I want you to know that you make a big impact to us as operators. We truly respect you.”

He also parted with a message of teamwork and hope to the GPS community.

“When I got hurt, [my wife] saw every one of my teammates from all parts of the world visit me. She saw TACP Airmen I had just met a year prior at Osan Air Base, fly out to see me. She realized why I love the Air Force. We are family; we take care of our family. And I truly appreciate that,” Del Toro said.

Del Toro also borrowed from Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech and said, “A lot of you may think I have gotten a bad break but I am the luckiest man out here because I work with the greatest men out there. I have a wife who gives me strength. I have a son who’s all my motivation. So yeah, I might have gotten a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

As part of the event, the 2 and 19 SOPS also presented the GPS Lifetime Achievement award to Jay Uebelhart for his continued 30 years of service to the success of GPS; and the 2015 Greatest Contributions to GPS Launch to Marc Drake for the launches of GPS SVN 71, 72 and 73 in 2015.

Lt. Col. Samuel Baxter, 19 SOPS commander, concluded the event and said, “We truly love our job because we are entrusted with arguably the most famous satellite constellation there is. But more than that, we get to work with such dedicated people – Airmen, civilians, contractors. You all serve an important role.”

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