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Space program pioneers meet AF leaders

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. (April 30, 2003) -- The father of the Air Force space program and a key leader in the development of weapons systems such as the Minuteman missile assembled former colleagues here April 23 to 27 for the annual meeting of the "Old Timers."

Retired Gen. Bernard A. Schriever led the intercontinental ballistic missile development teams that many credit with keeping the United States one step ahead of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.

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This year’s event included a private "staff meeting" for the teams’ members, a briefing on current operations by airmen of the directorate of space operations and integration, and a presentation of certificates by Schriever to the members of the group.

Many of the same engineers and scientists who were handpicked by Schriever, including six retired Air Force generals, attended this year’s event and were joined by several leaders of today’s Air Force.

Being in the midst of those who paved the way for the Air Force’s current successes -- men and women with legendary names, responsible for historic achievements -- was a remarkable experience, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper.

"It’s a bit intimidating to see these many faces who you're finally able to put names to, names that have followed you around your whole career,” he said.

Speaking to the group about recent victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jumper said "all that you see is a product of what you do in space. You guys started it all."

Schriever, now 92, was hesitant to personally take credit for the early advances, opting instead to recognize his fellow “Old Timers.”

"I was fortunate to be with people who got things done,” he said. “It's hard to find anyone to beat what we accomplished. We have one hell of a team, people who can really solve and answer problems. I had the good fortune to have been involved with a number of those early on.

“We have what it takes to win."

Schriever and his teams of hand-picked engineers and scientists met secretly in an Inglewood, Calif., schoolhouse in 1954 to discuss the direction of their program -- a move designed to avoid detection by potential Soviet spies.

They were ultimately responsible for the development of the Atlas, Titan, Thor and Minuteman missile programs, as well as spy and communication satellite programs such as Midas, Corona, Agena and Pioneer.

Others attending the reunion included: Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command; Gen. Lester Lyles, commander of Air Force Materiel Command; and Maj. Gen. Judd Blaisdell, Air Force director of space operations and integration.

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