By Staff Sgt. David Carbajal
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories and commentaries focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Satellite communications and Global Positioning Systems are common battlefield tools for U.S. and coalition forces in today’s overseas contingency operations. Occasionally, these tools can be hindered by space weather and solar activity.
To counter these unpredictable situations, the U. S. Air Force employs space liaison officers, embedded with combat forces, to train forces on how to effectively utilize these tools and to teach troops how to ensure these devices are as accurate as possible.
“People always assume space is going to work and space is going to be there,” said Capt. Bryony Veater, a space liaison officer and space weapons officer embedded with the 807th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron. “But when it doesn’t work or when it’s not being optimized correctly for a mission, I can step in to help.”
Veater is one of two SpaceLOs in Afghanistan and the first female to hold the position, she said. Veater is also a graduate of weapons school, which helps her integrate aspects of air and space.
In her SpaceLO role, she troubleshoots the tools that ground troops use daily.
“Figuring out why a GPS isn’t working, why a GPS isn’t getting good accuracy and how to mitigate those effects or how to plan a mission around those effects is a key part of my job,” said Veater, who is deployed from the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. “I also help them know what some of the alternatives are and understand some of the limitations and vulnerabilities of (satellite communications).”
During her six-month tour here, she visited more than 15 locations in Regional Command South, Southwest and West, training Soldiers, Airmen and Marines as well as Italians, Lithuanians, British, Australians and Canadians on the tactical exploitation of space.
This task did not come without its fair share of challenges.
“Sometimes ‘space’ can be very technical, so we have to speak (to) the knowledge of the audience,” Veater said.
This task was increasingly difficult when she taught some coalition partners, who aren’t fluent in English.
“It’s a dual challenge with them because you have to make sure they’re understanding the actual words as well as the space effects you’re trying to explain to them,” she said.
As a SpaceLO, she also held an important role in mission planning. For example, she provides mission planners with predictions on when they can expect certain communications systems to be working better than others. Forecasting these effects enables mission planners to bring backup forms of communication or to ensure the affected communication system isn’t their primary one.
“When calling in precise locations, they need to know their GPS is accurate as it’s supposed to be, especially if they’re calling in munitions,” said Veater, who is a Philadelphia native.
In the future, Veater foresees an integrated SpaceLO program aiding operations worldwide.
“We hope to continue the SpaceLO program and continue to integrate space into the fight,” she said. “We hope this capability can expand to other combatant commands and support their operations.”