Vandenberg AFB: Where the Eagle Soared by Merle Blasjo

It is the eighteenth century. A bald eagle flies over the western part of Santa Barbara County. Below him is the Chumash village Algsacupi; surrounding the village are hills and canyons occupied by deer, bears, coyotes, foxes, and various smaller animals. The eagle is on a mission as he soars gracefully, scanning the ground with his piercing eyesight for unsuspecting prey.

At that time, who could have foreseen that two centuries later, man would create something akin to the eagle but something of a different magnitude and something that would profoundly affect the whole world? In 1960, a rocket launched a satellite into space from this same location, now known as Vandenberg Air Force Base. This satellite, with eyes that could look closely at the earth below, was the predecessor of later satellites that repeatedly mapped every square meter of our planet.”

What can be said about the effect of VAFB on Santa Barbara North County? First, the activities at the base and before that at Camp Cooke forever changed the bucolic character of cattle peacefully grazing alongside wild animals in that section of the county. Second, it brought jobs and money into the economy. Third, it contributed to the military leadership of the United States. Fourth, it brought a host of high technology into the area.

Although much of the rocket, electronics, communication, and sensor technologies were developed elsewhere, the military and civilian personnel at Vandenberg were the proud custodians of these technologies in addition to their own technological contributions. Every day we use computer software, camera technology, GPS, and much more that came to us through the programs at Vandenberg AFB.

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