Fifteen years ago, a permanent change of station for Airmen meant having an in-depth travel plan. Paper road maps, phone calls to hotels and communicating with leadership before their travels were just a few of the necessary steps. There was no GPS, or ways to send email while on the road.
Now, thanks to technological achievements from Schriever and Peterson Air Force Base Airmen over the years, the PCS process and a myriad of other aspects in both military and civilian life has changed for the better. Despite these advancements, their contributions may go unrecognized, presenting a challenge in relaying the importance of space operations in our nation, to our nation.
In his recent address to wing commanders across the board, Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, spoke about this challenge and others facing modern Airmen.
“One of the challenges that we face as a service is actually articulating and explaining to the American people what it is that we do as an Air Force,” said Goldfein. “Because, quite frankly, we do so much and so much of it is under the radar that it is sometimes taken for granted.”
Not only is it important for the general population to understand space operations, it is vital for other Airmen who are trying to grasp and understand the overall Air Force mission.
Citizen Airmen at the 380th Space Control Squadron, who recently operated Red Flag 17-1 at Peterson Air Force Base, embraced this challenge by explaining the importance of their daily operations and Red Flag.
“It’s no secret that we have seen serious, growing threats in space,” said Capt. Jesse Diaz, 380th SPCS crew commander. “Red Flag provides a unique opportunity to train and defeat potential adversary attacks against our forces. This allows us to refine and confirm our defensive space control tactics, techniques and procedures.”
Staff Sgt. Richard Teller, also from the 380th, echoed this sentiment, saying that while Red Flag gives the Air Force the ability to master the space domain and protect capabilities from enemy attack or interference, it is also vital in keeping communications operational among Airmen across the globe.
“In the signal path from the satellite to the operator, we (being space) are the ground source for dispensing the signals to the operating and maintaining communicators,” said Teller. “When it gets to the maintaining communicators, they apply those signals to their mission such as email, imagery analysis, non-line of sight communications and link data, among others.”
The 380th, along with their active duty counterparts from the 16th SPCS, execute a total force capability to monitor, detect, characterize, and geolocate sources of satellite communication interference in direct support of combatant commanders. Despite a lot of the squadron’s time being spent employing their in-garrison and deployable missions, they also provide in house training whenever possible with external organizations.
“Teaching our members the specifics of what we do has always been a driving home point, versus the mentality of pressing buttons and expecting results,” said Senior Airman Joshua Foster, 380th SPCS. “We are constantly learning new and improved ways on how to understand and control our environment. Having [this knowledge] allows us to work dynamically when it comes to recognizing what is happening, where it is happening and who it may be coming from.”
Access to this information proves vital in keeping personnel throughout the Air Force informed and mission-ready across the globe. Since the 380th is made up of traditional Reservists, they must rely on sufficient manpower from Citizen Airmen and cooperation from civilian employers to continually support deployments, exercises, and in-garrison operations.
Some of those civilian jobs coincide with the work being done during Red Flag and daily space operations at Schriever and Peterson.
“For my civilian job, I work in the Aerospace Data Facility for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Colorado as a Systems Administrator,” said Teller. “Over there we maintain and enhance the ability for our operators to analyze imagery that we receive from our satellites. We then utilize that intelligence to make and execute strategic and tactical plans for the U.S. government. Our intelligence analysts and operators rely on having strong, stable signals sent to them in order to provide accurate and reliable intelligence reporting to our strategic decision makers.”
Others are using opportunities provided to them from the Reserve, such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill and tuition assistance, to obtain a degree in their profession.
“At the moment, I have made a shift from employment to education,” said Foster. “I’m pursuing different paths in education hoping to build a greater understanding of not only radio frequency transmissions, but the environment around it.”
While continuing to embrace and excel at daily tasks across Schriever and Peterson, Citizen Airmen are also working to initiate total force integration. The 310th Space Wing commander, Col. Traci Kueker-Murphy, echoed the CSAF’s main incentives during her February pre-UTA comments.
“(Gen. Goldfein) wants to strengthen the team so we can all speak eloquently about air, space and cyberspace,” said Kueker-Murphy. “He wants to recapitalize space, and our capabilities in space are critical to the fight. I’m really excited about the direction our Air Force is going and the role the Reserve is going to play in that.”